A Space Program for the Rest of Us
Writing in The New Atlantis, Rand Simberg presents an interesting and informative insider’s view of the history of our space program. He takes a critical but rational view of the space program and presents some reasonable solutions to some of the bigger problems.
Quoting Rand Simberg:
[With a] space-refueling infrastructure, propellant would be cheaper, flight hardware wouldn’t have to be as heavy, and alternative launch vehicles would flourish. Every year that we starve the kind of research and technology that would make this possible and instead spend our money on mega-launchers like the Ares V is another year that we delay developing a truly sustainable space transportation infrastructure--and becoming a truly spacefaring people. [...]
The Bush administration might have done well to establish an Office of Space Development (with "exploration" being merely a means to an end) that could draw on other federal resources--not just NASA, but the Departments of Defense and Energy--as well as the private sector.
Of course, an independent space development organization with such power would be politically unfeasible. But that is part of the problem: our sclerotic space agency is subject to forces of legacy politics; it protects existing bureaucratic structures and emphasizes jobs over achievement; and it perversely rewards failure with more funds and punishes success with budget cuts.
He makes a persuasive case for the need to reform the space program.