NASA turns 50 today! They've had their share of failures and cock-ups and shortcomings, but you have to love an organization whose motto is "for the benefit of all." And I just love space. Reflecting upon space is akin to nothing less than contemplating the nature of existence itself.
A quote from the classic film The Right Stuff once admonished, "No bucks, no Buck Rogers." But do we need 'Buck Rogers' anymore? There's a lot to be learned from space exploration. But do we need astronauts to do it? The manned space program is exciting and inspiring, and I don't want to give it up. But it is so expensive relative to the unmanned space program, and the science that is done benefits few.
What should a society pay for in this age of nearly half-trillion dollar deficits? Should NASA pursue the best, most cost-effective scientific research? Or should it protect itself by funding "politically sensitive" projects? NASA isn't done wrestling with these questions. I hope they come up with a good answer.
Happy Birthday, NASA.