Monday, September 10, 2007

NASA going the wrong way: let's not follow them

I found this article in an online student journalism magazine from Boston : "SciTini". Here's the link:
NASA's Moon Shot is a Blank
If you read this post then make sure your read the article too.
It illustrates a very evident phenomenon seen in govt administrations all over the world nowadays: they seem to be dumbing down more than ever. Facts are being replaced by rhetoric, and detailed explanations are giving way to bulleted lists and points.

This is turning out as a serious crisis for NASA, whose decisions ought to be based more on scientific pursuit than rhetoric. Now, several of their critical scientific study projects are being shelved and the resources being diverted to simpler, though admittedly more 'exciting' projects like the manned mars mission. The devil, as always, lies in the details.
here's a quote from the link above:
Six earth science programs are set to be sacrificed this year: Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM), Atmospheric Soundings from Geostationary Orbit (ASGO), Ocean Vector Winds (OVW), Landsat Data Continuity Bridge Mission, Glory, and the Wide Swatch Ocean Altimeter, measuring precipitation, temperature and water vapor, wind speed and direction near the ocean’s surface, land cover, solar irradiance, and sea level height, respectively. Together these missions would paint a highly detailed and in-depth look at many factors related to climate change that would be invaluable not only to climate science but to humanity at large.

Projects that would contribute so much to the common man right now are being sacrificed for less serious ones. The reason why not many people are getting alarmed is because now, more often than before we tend to skip the details. Someone who has no idea about any complex, scientific unmanned missions (and doesn't want to) will naturally choose the more expensive but simpler, more 'manly' (for want of a better word) manned mission. The problem is, that someone is sitting in the chair that controls the funding!

With this series of events being witnessed at NASA which was once probably the most technically advanced organization in the world, i hope the space agencies elsewhere in europe, india, china, japan will learn and avoid the same follies. The 'race' to put a man on the moon and other planets will right now not do anything to predict the next big climate disaster. One manned mission can be replaced by many more unmanned projects, for the same financial & technical resources. And right now the world needs these projects more.

We desperately need much more intensive study of world climate on an enormous scale. It's ridiculous that even today an old man looking up at the sky can make the same weather prediction as our best met department's. And even after watching the horror of disaster movies like Deep Impact, it's a joke that humanity has yet to devise a credible defense strategy against any earth-threatening asteroid. Today we still wouldn't be able to fend off 6 out of 10 wayward and dangerous space bodies, for the simple reason that we haven't cared to chart all the moving objects in the solar system as of yet. It's not like we don't have the telescopes.. It's like standing blindfolded with a gun in your hand - you have the capability to destroy the threat but it's all useless since you don't know where it's coming from.

I hope that in coming years, instead of following the american bandwagon, the other space agencies in the world do more to address these more pressing issues. Today we have the technology and capability to unmask almost all the unpredictable things that affect us, and remove or minimize their effects on the citizenry. If only we don't let rhetoric and pride take precedence over common sense.

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