Author Topic: Constructive feedback for NASA history thesis  (Read 531 times)

Online vaporcobra

Hi all, I am currently finishing up my Bachelor's and am in the process of revising a draft for a small thesis project on the sociopolitical history of NASA.

As with any research project, my goal has been primarily to develop a strong and accurate understanding of the topics I have been analyzing, and I would be immensely appreciative of any factual or structural corrections. My seminar is conducting informal peer reviews of our papers, but none of my classmates have any significant background in spaceflight history.

I've attached my most recent draft in PDF form, feel free to do anything from  taking a glance to conducting an extensive refutation :) Comments and criticism are explicitly welcome.

Edit: Made some changes to the final draft.

Edit 2: Draft v3.
« Last Edit: 12/08/2017 11:46 PM by vaporcobra »
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Offline edkyle99

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Re: Constructive feedback for NASA history thesis
« Reply #1 on: 12/07/2017 03:16 PM »
Lost me with the "well-worn Frankenstein conglomerates like Lockheed Martin, Orbital-ATK, Aerojet-Rocketdyne, Northrop Grumman, Boeing", etc. being called "space mafia". 

I get it.  NASA is bad.  SpaceX will save us.

Nevermind the Agency's inspiring working Mars rovers, the visits to Pluto and Saturn and Jupiter and Ceres and Vesta and comets, the deep-space spacecraft that keep working for decades, the discovery of extrasolar planets, the incredible international ISS achievement, etc.  Nevermind that NASA itself has fostered commercial space with the many-billion-dollar commercial cargo and crew contracts.  All done by an Agency that is a fraction of the size it was during the 1960s. 

Apparently, the default view of today's academia is that NASA can only be considered a messed up arm of the U.S. Government.

C-minus, but with grade inflation you'll probably manage a B-plus.  :)

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 12/07/2017 08:21 PM by edkyle99 »

Online vaporcobra

Re: Constructive feedback for NASA history thesis
« Reply #2 on: 12/09/2017 12:11 AM »
Lost me with the "well-worn Frankenstein conglomerates like Lockheed Martin, Orbital-ATK, Aerojet-Rocketdyne, Northrop Grumman, Boeing", etc. being called "space mafia". 

I get it.  NASA is bad.  SpaceX will save us.

Apparently, the default view of today's academia is that NASA can only be considered a messed up arm of the U.S. Government.


Trust me when I say that my goal was not to say SpaceX > NASA. I make it pretty clear that there is some distinct lineage between ABMA/young MSFC and SpaceX, which is rather exciting to me. Shows that NASA could also rather successfully move back in that direction.

As for this:
Quote
NASA is bad.

Nevermind the Agency's inspiring working Mars rovers, the visits to Pluto and Saturn and Jupiter and Ceres and Vesta and comets, the deep-space spacecraft that keep working for decades, the discovery of extrasolar planets, the incredible international ISS achievement, etc.  Nevermind that NASA itself has fostered commercial space with the many-billion-dollar commercial cargo and crew contracts.  All done by an Agency that is a fraction of the size it was during the 1960s.

I agree, some of NASA's component field centers have accomplished incredible things. JPL may well be responsible for like > 50% of every good thing NASA has ever done, and every field center has had at least a few limited successes over the years. I follow every robotic exploration mission on the edge of my seat :)

I definitely should make it more explicitly clear that I'm focusing on the launcher side of things, and thus MSFC for its central role in all of NASA's launcher development efforts. I would love to look at each major field center and compare them, particularly JPL, but that would probably turn an 8000 word paper into a, what, a 25,000 word paper?? ;D Maybe one day.

But framing my argument as a NASA hate-piece is almost besides the point: the agency NASA is and has always been is not its fault, and is not necessarily reflective of US spaceflight ambitions, especially given the fact that the numerous field centers are very nearly autonomous with respect to "headquarters". Each field center is basically unique, and each have their own various pros and cons. But the omnipresent constants throughout the agency and most of US federal procurement are systems engineering, inept/overconfident technocratic leadership, and the ever-invasive military-industrial complex.

It's those things that I wholeheartedly hate. NASA was simply caught in the crossfire, so to speak, and has never recovered from the extreme climate it was created in. Reforms/repairs are certainly theoretically possible and deeply desirable, but not even remotely conceivable in the current political climate, and NASA will remain crippled until its systemic flaws can be decisively dealt with.

Commercial support is the shortcut we have until the civil space agencies of the world get their s*** together, and SpaceX is the leader in that sphere ;D SpaceX has problems, too, but as a private company, it's almost impossible to properly analyze its mistakes/organizational structure/technical methods. I would love to, but all we really have are like Glassdoor reviews, the odd personal interview, and statements from its definitely-not-innately-biased executives (which is to say nothing I can really cite extensively in an academic paper).

Lastly, thanks for your comments!
« Last Edit: 12/09/2017 12:16 AM by vaporcobra »
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