three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
10-May-June-2004
By: 
Greg Klerkx
user_rating: 
0

The Fall of NASA and the Dream of a New Space Age

A-LostSpaceSoon after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969, Americans began to imagine Jetson-style colonies and orbiting cities in space. What happened to these dreams? Klerkx, a former senior manager of the SETI (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence) Institute, claims that NASA, once a visionary agency, is now a corrupt, overly political bureaucracy. In its refusal to work with the private sector, it has removed competitors and collaborators alike, derailed others' endeavors (think Mir space station), and exhibited a desire to dominate the space industry. "Instead of opening doors to. . . expansion in space," Klerkx concludes, "NASA and its Big Aerospace partners closed ranks", to our nation's collective loss.
Pantheon. 392 pages. $27.95.

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Lost in Space is partly a harangue at NASA and partly a battle cry for the alternative space program, and it certainly offers an engaging counterpoint to the can-do rhetoric headed our way via Bush and NASA officials." Julie Mayeda

San Diego Union-Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"An important book that provides a context for understanding the decline of NASA and the rise of the alternative space community." Bruce V. Bigelow

Los Angeles Times 3 of 5 Stars
"It is clear that the author has done a great deal of research and knows quite a lot about efforts at space travel and exploration as well as its finance and politics." Jonathan Shipley

Wall Street Journal 3 of 5 Stars
"Scathing.... With vivid examples, Mr. Klerkx argues that NASA is 'a government-sheltered corporate-supported monopoly that will fight competitive enterprises with all its considerable clout and resources.'" Ronald Bailey

Philadelphia Inquirer 1 of 5 Stars
"Klerkx believes that NASA and its subcontractors want to be the only space game in town (or the world) and won't allow anyone or any government to become an equal partner (or competitor) when it comes to space. ... [W]e'll need better arguments than Klerkx's." Jon Caroulis

Critical Summary

What happened to the promising Space Age of 30 years ago? Klerkx offers a compelling if biased critique of NASA and its benefactors in Lost in Space. He delves into insider politics, showing how NASA bows to its major suppliers and congressional contributors. The result? Instead of Klerkx's claimed colonies on Mars, we have an unfinished, increasingly costly space station. The narrative generally flows well, even with some confusing acronyms, heavy financial issues, and erroneous history. The bigger issue is Klerkx's bias. Although he researched NASA's competitors and focused on two private endeavors, he did not interview NASA officials, weakening his indictment of the agency. Still, he's largely correct about the direction of our current Space Age efforts: spend your down payment on that Mars home elsewhere.