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OP/ED: The Death Of An Unknown Hero and How NASA Has Lost Its Way

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posted on Oct, 10 2004 @ 05:42 PM
A third and perhaps least known member of Project Mercury has died. Dr. Maxime A. Faget is not a household world. While Werner Von Braun received virtually all of the recognition for the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo projects, Dr. Faget was responsible or had a hand in the design of every manned space program that NASA has put forth. From Mercury to the Shuttle, to his early work on supersonic flight, Dr Faget was there. NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe put it best:"Without Max Faget’s innovative designs and thoughtful approach to problem solving, America’s space program would have had trouble getting off the ground"


This event sadly occurs after the death of Gordon Cooper. Another unknown icon of the Mercury program, Donald Douglas (Douglas Aircraft, now part of Boeing) also passed away last week. Heros all, they represent the best of human nature, the will to create, and the insatiable curiosity to explore. NASA on the other hand, has lost touch with all of the ideals that fostered the great space programs of the 50"s and 60"s. Gone are the larger than life heros. The Shepard’s, the Glenn’s, the Lovell’s, and others. People that exemplified the spirit of discovery, the much maligned “can do” attitude, and above all the best we had to offer. Now we have very task oriented, mission specialists that while advancing science to a degree have done nothing to promote or invigorate not only the American public, but the world as a whole. People like Storey Musgrave, while contributing to science, are simply not going to get me excited about the space program. Millions of people world wide watched the excitement of the Mars Rovers, yet on the fateful day of the latest shuttle disaster, how many of us even knew there was a shuttle in orbit?

NASA has in effect simply become a huge government bureaucracy unto itself. Instead of the engineers and astronauts planning missions, we have Bureaucrats and administrators running the show and controlling everything. The tail is indeed wagging the dog. The culture has become so risk adverse, that it is amazing that anything actually ever gets done. One only has to look at the Soviet / Russian space program to see the opposite. While I laud NASA for trying to be safe, the Russians showed courage and ingenuity in keeping the Mir Space Program up and flying despite everyday disasters. NASA would have folded up its tent and abandoned the station long before the Russians were compelled to deorbit it. This type of spirit, this type of ingenuity has become lost amongst the bureaucracy.

The events of the last weeks have made it very clear to me that the time has come for NASA to pass the Earth orbit mission to commercial ventures. The time has come for the innovative, the out of the box thinkers to set their sights on this once government only domain. Burt Rutan, who has all of the qualities has proven that commercial space flight is within our grasp as evidence by his winning last week of the X prize. Others are following in his footsteps and it is only a matter of time before commercially viable space flight is here. NASA should concentrate its energy on exploring the planets and probing the mysteries of deep space.

Thank You

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