NASA Talks Tough On Its Future, Again

NASA, huh? Since the halcyon days of Kennedy and the shuttle program it's sputtered slightly, thanks in no small part to unnecessary wars, poor economics and other earthly foibles. Also: explaining its purpose, especially as it relates to the layperson.

But that's going to change! Really! Or, at least it was until the budget was, ahem, affected earlier this year by a mighty stroke from President Obama's oft-not used "no, actually we can't" executive branch pen.

But now it's going to change again! So said NASA's Number Two anyway, in remarks to an assembly at a TEDxMidTownNY event at Manhattan's Explorers Club this week. Evolution was the theme, as in NASA needs to evolve for the future, not get stuck in the past, said deputy chief Lori Garver.

What that means, specifically, is ditching vestigial Apollo program habits and beliefs, and embracing commercial space flight in low-earth orbit. Also on the docket, "ambitious exploration missions" to nearby asteroids and that much ballyhooed celestial red-faced neighbor or ours, Mars. One would think, although it's no certain, that embracing the former would free up funding for the latter.

The increased role of privatized space travel in NASA's arsenal is nothing new, of course. Back in January we brought you word that privatization was seen as a necessary boon for the space agency as looming cuts appeared on the horizon.

Personally, I absolutely believe NASA's value (and ESA, and JAXA, etc.) cannot be overstated. Historically speaking humans have been relatively united, inspired energized and when it comes to one thing, exploration, and I can think of no frontier, save the ocean depths, that would capture our curiosity more than crazy missions of exploration into the deep, dark depths of space.

And, didn't you hear? There might be methanogen life forms on Titan and Earth-like planets are a mere year away from discovery.

In the immortal words of Bill Watterson, let's go exploring. [MSNBC]