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July 21, 2010

The Decline and Fall of NASA.

The Faustian Bargain

Bill Whittle
Bill Whittle
The "Faustian Bargain" metaphor used by Bill Whittle to explain the rise and fall of NASA is uncannily appropriate. I was on the MIT campus on October 4, 1957, the day the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. My fellow students were dazed and speechless: How could the Soviet Union, which they considered a second rate technological power, be first in space? President Eisenhower named James Killian, the president of MIT, as his Special Assistant for Science and Technology. Killian was instrumental in establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). On December 6 the American satellite Vanguard exploded on the launch pad. On January 31, 1958 the Americans finally get their first satellite into orbit.

While on the surface this was a race between the USA and the USSR, in fact both were using WWII German technology. The joke of the day was a supposed conversation between the two satellites when they met in orbit: "Shall we speak in German?"

John Kennedy's 1962 Moon speech culminated in Neil Armstrong stepping on the Moon in July 1969, less than seven years later and barely 12 years after the launch of the first artificial satellite. This was truy a breath taking achievement.

What is so Faustian about it? NASA has effectively discontinued its space mission. Their new job is to make Muslims feel good about themselves. While presidents who cared about America gave NASA a huge impetus, later day presidents have a different agenda. According to Whittle the huge initial success could only be achieved at the expense of seeing the effort disappear after a few decades.

Instead on mourning NASA, Bill Whittle is confident that now that American free enterprise is reaching out to space, lasting progress can be made just as private enterprise, not government, created aviation history.

Bill Whittle's video presentation on the death of NASA and the birth of private space exploration is fantastic. It's one of the most inspiring shows I have seen in years.

Enjoy One Small Misstep for a Man, One Giant Leap for Private Enterprise by Bill Whittle on PJTV

Denny Schlesinger

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Last updated March 8, 2009.