NASA’s biggest contribution?

While NASA’s space program was essential in starting the space race and proving that humanity can exist off the Earth, it’s demise may do as much to get us into space as it’s past success.  I think that this failure, fueled by the political environment in the US and magnified by its own archaic management structure that has been in place since Apollo, is going to do more to make space accessible to mankind than anything that they ever launched or lost on the drawing board.

Now follow me here. I love NASA. I think the concept that they started with, to get a team of bright and dedicated people together and solve the biggest problems of the day is amazing and I strive to realize a similar situation in everything I attempt. They have brought us amazing things that have altered our world more than we can comprehend. I imagine that any true survey of technology in mine or my parent’s lifetime is going to spend a large portion of its time in some back room of a NASA lab.

Unfortunately, NASA wasn’t able to keep up with technology as it evolved with ever-increasing speed. Possibly as bad or worse, NASA lost our imagination and didn’t know how to re-catpure it. Even the most successful NASA project, the Hubble telescope, is marred by its painful birth with mal-focused optics brought on by simple math errors.

But this sad time for NASA is, I believe, going to have an ultimately beneficial effect on mankind’s effort to grow out of low Earth orbit. Without these failures, and more importantly this lack of interest in public funding for space exploration, the private sector may have never grown like it has in the past decade. These Henry Ford types like Richard Branson and Bigelow Aerospace, are key to forming the initial competition that is going to make travel into space cheap and safe.

Even more importantly, if NASA had maintained our wonder like it did in the 1960’s, organizations like Mach30 wouldn’t have formed to fill the void left by NASA in the 1990’s and 2000’s. Groups that realize the obvious truth that the next great frontier is in and beyond orbit are the platforms that are ultimately going to bring mankind into space as a part of life. This is truly the beginning of the most exciting period of human development.

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