Defining NASA: The Historical Debate Over the Agency's by W. D. Kay

By W. D. Kay

Such a lot observers might element to the 1969 Apollo moon touchdown because the unmarried maximum accomplishment of NASA, but favorite scientists, engineers, and public officers have been wondering the aim of the U.S. house application, even on the peak of its nationwide attractiveness. Defining NASA appears to be like on the turbulent background of the distance enterprise and the political controversies in the back of its investment. W. D. Kay examines the agency's actions and behaviour through bearing in mind not just the political weather, but additionally the alterations in how public officers conceptualize house coverage. He explores what policymakers predicted once they created the company in 1958, why aid for the Apollo application was once so powerful within the Nineteen Sixties purely to vanish away in one of these rather brief time period, what prompted NASA and the distance software to languish all through many of the Nineteen Seventies purely to reemerge within the Nineteen Eighties, and, eventually, what function the corporation performs at the present time.

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A somewhat more benign explanation, however, might be that the AEC originally saw its mandate as the promotion of civilian nuclear energy, not its regulation. 38 Issue Specificity Another source of confusion over policymakers’ intentions is the fact that traditional policy labels such as “national defense” or “economic development” actually encompass a very wide range of activities. 39 Thus, simply calling a particular endeavor a “welfare” program may not make it immediately clear which specific aspect of the poverty problem it is intended to address.

This (still secret) requirement effectively doomed Project Orbiter. S. Army, but the Redstone rocket he proposed to use as a launch vehicle was also slated to serve as the nation’s first ICBM. The NRL was, of course, a navy facility, and had been from time to time directly involved with the development of military technologies (it had, for example, conducted some of the earliest experiments in nuclear propulsion62). Even so, it did conduct a great deal of basic scientific research, and the Viking rocket it was developing had no military application whatsoever.

57 Not all constraints are political or budgetary in nature. R&D organizations like NASA face the added problem of physical limits, scientific laws, and so on. DOE’s fusion energy program saw its budget and status grow during the 1970s and early 1980s primarily because policymakers believed that the technology could reach the commercialization stage by the end of the century (if not sooner). 60 Everyone agrees that “innovation,” “changing with the times,” and “adapting to new circumstances” are positive attributes for any organization (and especially for a private firm).

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