Now, via Brad DeLong, here's a great idea to improve NASA's manned program:
To the uneducated mind, it would seem we could accomplish our current manned space flight objectives more easily by not launching any astronauts into space at all -- leaving the Shuttle and ISS on the ground would result in massive savings without the slighest impact on basic science, while also increasing mission safety by many orders of magnitude.
The astronauts could even do "spacewalks" outside to repair the Shuttle and ISS wearing spacesuits, like some people have been doing recently in Utah and Canada as part of a not-very-convincing simulation of living on Mars.
Very long post at the link but it's very good and well-written, and includes things that I, a space geek, didn't know. Here's another nice quote: "You know you're in trouble when the Russians are adding safety features to your design."
By the way, some people argue that the manned program provides political support for the unmanned, actually-useful, space science program. I don't buy that - NASA's manned program hasn't been exciting in 33 years, but the unmanned program does well when its budget isn't being stolen to finance the manned missions.
Hopefully, someday we'll cancel this stupid, astronaut-killing boondoggle program.
key: science, space, politics