NASA Is Held Down by Its Own Bureaucracy

NASA Is Held Down by Its Own Bureaucracy:

Scientists said that the agency’s original sense of mission and can-do spirit had largely given way to a civil-service culture, with a maze of bureaucratic rules, overlaid by a risk-averse approach that permeated NASA after the Challenger explosion in 1986. As a result, these experts said, it was difficult to attract ambitious young talent.

Many point to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is affiliated with Caltech, as a place where innovation lives on.

S.M. Thesis

The Space Systems Lab at MIT, where I went to college, has reorganized their web-site, and made available PDF files of many of the theses from the grad students. One of them happens to be Comparative System Trades Between Structurally Connected and Separated Spacecraft Interferometers for the Terrestrial Planet Finder Mission, my 1998 Master of Science thesis. Very cool.

Also, two other theses dealing with the Terrestrial Planet Finder are there: Reliability and Productivity Modeling for the Optimization of Separated Spacecraft Interferometers by Julie Wertz, who now works at JPL as well, and Interferometer Architecture Trade Studies for the Terrestrial Planet Finder Mission by Brian Makins. SSL is the the place to be for TPF work!

Microsoft Business Partner

Seen on the Advogato Diary for MichaelCrawford:

It was suggested in today’s Slashdot story on Microsoft losing a major patent infringement case about SQL server that we link to a page like the following with the link text

Microsoft Business Partner
. It’s a list of companies that Microsoft has either acquired or driven out of business through unethical practices. The way google works, if enough people link to the same page with the same link text, it will rise to be ranked #1 among google’s search hits for the link text’s words.

Good from the bad

If there’s been any good from the Columbia tragedy, it’s been the minor reawakaening of America to the dangers of space exploration, a reexamination of the benefits and costs, and a greater realization of the courage of the astronauts. The San Francisco Chronicle has two great articles, with great headlines. In It is rocket science, some of the pros and cons, the risks and rewards, the good and the bad are presented. Robotic exploration is mentioned as well. And some of the quotes are great:

Who tunes in to observe a group of scientists and payload specialists routinely climbing aboard for another shuttle cargo run? Not when you can see giggly young women in tube tops grab squirmy electric eels on “Fear Factor.”

Most Americans could not name a single astronaut who’s flown a successful shuttle mission in the past 10 years, although many can identify ‘N Sync pop star Lance Bass as a wannabe “space tourist” scrounging for Russia’s $25 million ticket price to hitch a Soyuz rocket ride to the international space station.

And in A plump, homely explorer of space, Columbia herself gets a homily.

WAR – some thoughts

I came across another thoughtful write-up of the reasoning behind an invasion of Iraq. Eject! Eject! Eject!: WAR makes a pretty good case, in my opinion, for war. The first argument is very bold:

The impending military action is not the pre-emptive opening of hostilities against a sovereign nation, but rather the continuation of hostilities began by Iraq in 1990 with their invasion of Kuwait; said resumption being a direct result of repeated and flagrant violations of the ceasefire signed by Iraq in 1991.

It also debunks the very stupid hypothesis that this war is all about oil. That’s almost the worst insult thrown around by the hyper-eco-fanatics…