NASA’s Good Reputation Is a Relic of the Space Race

NASA has been synonymous with cutting edge space exploration for decades, but that perception is no longer rooted in reality.

By Eli Oyler

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration–NASA–is the poster-child for space advancement and exploration, rivaled only by Starfleet from the TV show Star Trek. In the eyes of Americans NASA embodies the American Dream. Their work and perseverance during the Apollo missions brought to all Americans a sense of pride and accomplishment. However, NASA hit a slump after the Apollo missions concluded, until they picked it back up with the shuttle missions in 1981, bringing a renewed sense of hope to the space program. The missions resulted in the building of the International Space Station, or ISS. Americans all over the nation were overjoyed: people living in space was a thing of comic books, but now it was a reality, all thanks to NASA.

But the shuttle missions concluded in 2011 and now NASA has hit a standstill in the way of space travel. To even get our NASA astronauts to the ISS it costs about 81 million dollars a person, on a Russian rocket. Might I remind you that it was the Russians the United States raced to the moon in the 60’s.

So what is NASA doing if they can’t even get their own astronauts to space? The answer is, very little. The misguided feelings of pride and accomplishment associated with NASA must be redirected and credit be given where it’s due.

It’s about time the people of America stop their uninformed worship of NASA and begin seeing what’s happening in the space community.

NASA, the explorers and future conquerors of the Space Age, now relies on private aerospace firms. Thanks to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, and many more, NASA has been able to put new satellites in orbit and remain the symbol of the Space Age, whilst doing only half the work.

These private companies, led by people like Elon Musk (founder of Tesla and SpaceX) and Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon and Blue Origin), are the future of the space industry. And it’s about time the people of America stop their uninformed worship of NASA and begin seeing what’s happening in the space community.

SpaceX, launching in only 2002, has made more contributions to the advancement of space travel than any other company. During their time, they have made the first rocket booster to launch to Earth’s orbit and successfully land back on the Earth’s surface. This seemingly simple act was one of the most important accomplishments in space travel, making a very costly rocket reusable. This first step in making space travel efficient was taken by SpaceX not NASA.

NASA still does its job when it comes to satellites and telescopes, but it is the innovative companies like SpaceX and Boeing that will lead the charge in furthering space exploration far beyond its current bounds.

Photo: NASA Saturn V Rocket Center by Carrie Lu on Flickr