Why would NASA outsource missions to SpaceX?

When it comes new PR disasters, NASA isn't taking any risks.

PETER WARD: One of the greatest criticisms leveled at NASA is that they don't take enough risk, and that's for good reason. You've seen that they have had tragedies in their past. They had the Challenger disaster. They've had two tragedies in the shuttle program alone. And we saw whole crews die in those. And that makes you nervous. That's bad for PR. That's bad for a government. That's bad for a president. If you see these national heroes who are supposed to be going into space to further the species and get glory for the country and they don't come back, that aside from being a terrible, terrible thing is also extremely bad PR and it did affect NASA a lot.

And what we've seen now is NASA has shifted some of that risk. NASA's role has changed. Back then they would be a contractor and they would tell companies to build them a specific part of a rocket. But they would do the whole mission themselves. Now we see NASA is more of a client so it's shifted the responsibility and the risk to SpaceX. SpaceX is basically selling NASA a ride to the international space station. So if something were to go wrong and thankfully as the years go on it's less likely that something will go wrong, NASA doesn't have as much of that risk. It doesn't have as much responsibility I guess. It will come under fire for hiring SpaceX but ultimately anything bad that would happen would be on SpaceX's shoulders.

So you've seen NASA has switched, has taken the risk and put it onto the private companies. And the private companies are much better equipped to deal with that risk. They don't have to elect their CEO every four years, for example. They don't have to answer to a whole country and they can go ahead and do things that other people couldn't. And you've seen it in America in the past actually. You saw the railroad expansion. America used private companies to do that. It wasn't the government. They gave them huge amounts of land and said go and build us a railroad system and there are actually a lot of similarities between those two scenarios. A lot of people see Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin as the railroad companies who are being tasked with connecting us with another frontier essentially.

  • Tragedies at NASA, such as Challenger and Columbia disasters, have impeded the organization from taking risks, critics say. Indeed, in terms of PR, these tragedies were particularly baleful.
  • Although NASA was once a contractor, its staff spearheading missions, today they are more a client. SpaceX is basically selling NASA a ride to the ISS.
  • Essentially, NASA has put the risk on private companies — if anything bad happens, it's on SpaceX, for example. This switch may better further space colonization goals, though, because the private sector has more flexibility, in terms of how business is conducted. Also, NASA, as a national entity, avoids the pall of a possible disaster.

How New York's largest hospital system is predicting COVID-19 spikes

Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.

Credit: Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
  • The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
  • Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
Keep reading Show less

Put on a happy face? “Deep acting” associated with improved work life

New research suggests you can't fake your emotional state to improve your work life — you have to feel it.

Credit: Columbia Pictures
Personal Growth
  • Deep acting is the work strategy of regulating your emotions to match a desired state.
  • New research suggests that deep acting reduces fatigue, improves trust, and advances goal progress over other regulation strategies.
  • Further research suggests learning to attune our emotions for deep acting is a beneficial work-life strategy.
  • Keep reading Show less

    World's oldest work of art found in a hidden Indonesian valley

    Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.

    Credit: Maxime Aubert
    Surprising Science
    • Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
    • The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
    • The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
    Keep reading Show less

    3,000-pound Triceratops skull unearthed in South Dakota

    "You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.

    Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College
    Surprising Science
    • The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
    • It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
    • Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
    Keep reading Show less

    What can Avicenna teach us about the mind-body problem?

    The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.

    Photo by Andrew Spencer on Unsplash
    Mind & Brain
    Philosophers of the Islamic world enjoyed thought experiments.
    Keep reading Show less
    Quantcast