So What IS Their Mission…?

From a recent interview (courtesy of Space Daily):

GRIFFIN: Nowhere in NASA’s authorization, which of course governs what we do, is there anything at all telling us that we should take actions to affect climate change in either one way or another. We study global climate change, that is in our authorization, we think we do it rather well. I’m proud of that, but NASA is not an agency chartered to quote “battle climate change.”


Riddle me this, readers – can anyone point the Cynics to the actual authorization so we can see what NASA really IS supposed to be doing, according to Mr. Griffin’s “If it’s not in the Authorization, it’s not our mission” criteria? Perhaps he can get them out of those silly manned space missions to nowhere while he’s at it?

I don’t care if you are in the “Global Warming is a crisis” camp or the “Global Warming is Hyped” camp – or, if you’re in the Global Warming is a natural phenomenon camp for that matter. The issue I want to dig into here is what IS the mission of NASA? The organisation has many different arms – from the most well known and dysfunctional (Manned Space) to the often times brilliantly successful (robotic space – e.g., Hubble) to the virtually unknown by the masses (biology, aeronautics, etc). When I used to do strategic planning work with NASA back in my KPMG days, their “strategic plans” were a mishmash of different objectives and directions. I doubt much has changed, other than the lettering of Codes at NASA HQ.

The question at the root of all this is: Does NASA even know what it’s “elevator pitch” mission is, and can anyone succinctly describe it here?

The soapbox is open, let’s hear your ideas.

9 thoughts on “So What IS Their Mission…?

  1. NASA’s stated mission (from the Ames website):

    * To advance and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding of the earth, the solar system, and the universe.
    * To advance human exploration, use, and development of space.
    * To research, develop, verify, and transfer advanced aeronautics and space technologies.

  2. Thanks, Matt – but what I”m still looking for is what does the Authorization say about NASA’s mission?

    Because according to the mission statement you quoted could also be easily used as a justification for more intensive study of global warming, contrary to the view from Mr. Griffin in the interview that led to this blog entry in the first place.

    On a side note: i’m curious as well if it is the same statement on every field center website, or if in fact there’s variation… any intrepid Space Cynic readers want to tackle that one..?

  3. Jeff,

    thanks for the link.

    which includes “The expansion of human knowledge of the Earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space” but does not include the mitigation of global climate change.

    True – it also does not necessarily say “run a wasteful space station/shuttle program” or “build a lunar base”… but i’ll read it more carefully just to be sure 🙂

    Whether it should is a whole ‘nother argument…

    Agreed – and one not for this particular time. I will be posting on that as soon as i get caught up on a few other posts i’ve been drafting.

  4. Okay, let’s accept your (quasi)-argument: NASA’s primary job should be fixing up global warming; everything else should go to the wall. Fine.

    How many hundreds of billions of dollars do you want to give Mike Griffin to spend each year? What’s his time table? Does he have to answer to state legislatures and foreign diplomats and coordinate NASA’s actios with the Army Corp of Engineers? Or does he have carte blanc to do what ever is necessary, anywhere in the world, at any time?

    And after the weather is fixed, what do you want NASA to do next?


  5. Mike Shupp said:

    Okay, let’s accept your (quasi)-argument: NASA’s primary job should be fixing up global warming; everything else should go to the wall.

    Note to the rest of you puzzingly angry and reading-comprehension challenged individuals out there.

    Learn to read.

    Then, practice.

    Practice some more.

    When you think you’ve got that down, so that you actually understand what you read, then spend some time reading blogs, but don’t comment just yet.

    First, type up your comment in any one of the many word processing programs available, or even just write it down with a pen and paper.

    Walk away.

    Come back to it later, read it, and ask yourself “does this really respond to the actual point the writer of the original comment/blog post/article was making? or am I just full of s**t?”

    If the answer is the former, then go ahead and post it. But you should be REALLY confident in it.

    Now, on to the point at hand:

    I did not in my original post, or in my comments to date, say that NASA should be spending huge amounts of money on Global Warming – either to study it or cure it (if in fact it needs curing).

    What I *did* say was that if the criteria Griffin was using for responding to those who clamored for more efforts on Global Warming by NASA was simply that “it’s not in the mandate so I’m not required to do it”, then we should apply that logic to all of NASA’s current programs to see if in fact much of it could be cut back, or alternatively should be better funded.

    And I stand by that point.

  6. Does NASA even know what it’s “elevator pitch” mission is

    By their actions ye shall know them.

    NASA’s mission includes:

    1) Spending as much money as possible in as many Congressional districts as possible,

    2) Providing some moderately entertaining video to the taxpayers a few times per year, and

    3) Never killing anybody.

    I believe those missions encompass everything that NASA is actually doing, don’t they?

  7. shubber, you may not have specifically submitted that quasi-argument…but you’re guilty of the same kind of over-extension you accuse Griffen of. Maybe all he meant was that climate abatement is not in Nasa’s mission. After all, that’s what he said. You’re the one that linked that to how much climate study Nasa does.

  8. you may not have specifically submitted that quasi-argument…but you’re guilty of the same kind of over-extension you accuse Griffen of.

    I didn’t submit ANY argument with regards to Global Warming. If I did, please point it out to me (and use quotes). So, no, I reject your statement that i’m guilty of the “same kind of over-extension” that Griffin made.

    What I *did* say was that Griffin should be careful what arguments he puts forth in defence of a position he is taking, because if someone were to go after any of the sacred cows at NASA using the same logic as Griffin, he might be hard pressed to justify those programs.

    There’s a universe of difference between what you ascribed to me and what I put forth.

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