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Crawfish in the NBL: Adapting to Change at NASA

By Keith Cowing
May 18, 2014
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As NASA seeks next mission, Russia holds the trump card, Houston Chronicle
“During a private exchange of e-mails in August 2012, less than a month before he died, Neil Armstrong and a handful of other Apollo vets were grumbling about NASA’s lack of a clear goals. They invoked a Yogiism describe the space agency, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might not get there.”
“Earlier this month NASA proudly tweeted photos of veteran astronauts Stan Love and Steve Bowen in the pool, testing tools and spacesuits that would be needed for the asteroid expedition the White House wants NASA to do. But the photos are far more revealing for what they didn’t show. They didn’t show the large section of the pool that’s cordoned off, which NASA has leased to oil-services companies to help keep the lights on at this historic facility. In a pool once used exclusively by astronauts, oil rig workers now practice survival techniques in the event their helicopter has to ditch in the ocean. The photos also didn’t show the remains of party that had been held the night before. The company Tracerco used the famous pool as a backdrop for a crawfish boil to fete attendees of the Offshore Technology Conference and show off its subsea scanning technology.”
Keith’s note: Dual use of NASA facilities is good. Thinking outside the box when doing so is even better. So long as barriers – many of which are artificial (and spring from NASA internal culture) – remain between how/what NASA does and how/what the real word outside NASA does NASA will miss out on opportunities to be seen as being more relevant – and part of the larger community whose taxes pay for their stuff. Yea, an oil service company had a crawfish boil in the NBL they were renting for diving training. Imagine the stories all of the attendees will be telling for years as to how cool that was. If NASA can let cheesy movies like “Armageddon” film in the NBL, have chili cookoffs and graze cattle on JSC property, then why not open up to the real world more often?
“I’m going over to NASA to [fill in the blank]” ought to be a far more common phrase than it currently is. Right now you probably hear “what do they do in there?” from people driving by on the freeway. NASA needs to adapt to the times that it finds itself in – not reminisce about times that have long since passed – never to return. Were people at NASA in the 1960’s yearning for the way things use to be in 1910? Why should be be wanting to do the same in 2014? We are living in the future that the people at NASA in the 1960s hoped to create. Let’s do something with that future by looking forward – not back.
As for things NASA already has – especially existing facilities, capabilities – and spacecraft – lets make NASA rethink how it can use these things in new ways – and perhaps learn to let go of somethings a little more readily. In so doing, NASA may find unexpected synergies and new opportunities where it least expected them to be.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.