How NASA Works

Criticisms of NASA

Star Trek cast
The Shuttle Enterprise rolls out of the Palmdale manufacturing facilities with 'Star Trek' cast members in 1976. They are (L-R): NASA Administrator Dr. James D. Fletcher, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Leonard Nimoy, Gene Rodenberry (producer), and Walter Koenig. NASA

No one can deny that NASA has achieved extraordinary things in its relatively short lifetime. However, NASA is not without its critics. Criticisms seem to come on two fronts:

  • Is the high cost of space exploration worth the scientific/economic returns? Scientific and technological advancements cannot always come with a price tag, but rather are invaluable to humanity. Well-known products or technologies like memory foam, scratch-resistant eyeglasses, LASIK and space blankets all came courtesy of NASA inventions.
  • Is it worth risking human lives to explore space when expendable robots can do it at a cheaper price in both dollars and human risk? This question has been bandied about since the inception of NASA and there is no definitive answer. Many people feel that the human experience of space exploration is as important and priceless as the mere data that a robot would send back. For example, a geologist on the moon would know more about what rocks to look for and return than a robot.
  • Are we taking unnecessary risks in space exploration? Space is a hostile environment and space exploration will always have dangers. However, NASA tries to minimize risks where possible and make it as safe as it can.