NASA to Close NAIC (and stop thinking about the Future)

So what do you call a space agency with no institute for advanced research? Wait, you can still call it a space agency?

While that’s not much of joke, it reflects the increasingly grim reality at NASA if the recent reports in the New Scientist and WIRED are believed to be true that suggest the NASA Institute for Advanced Concept (NIAC) is being closed due budget constraints. What’s the ironic source of the constraint’s that might put an end to NASA most forward thinking research institution? Why building the next generation space craft set to replace the shuttle after its forced retirement in 2010.

For those who haven’t seen the many different stories we’ve done on all the various projects the NIAC has undertaken since its 1998 founding, NAIC has a far out mission that aims to prepare NASA for humanity’s future in space, from their website:

"NIAC seeks proposals for revolutionary aeronautics and space concepts that could dramatically impact how NASA develops and conducts its missions. It provides a highly visible, recognizable, and high-level entry point for outside thinkers and researchers. NIAC encourages proposers to think decades into the future in pursuit of concepts that will "leapfrog" the evolution of current aerospace systems. While NIAC seeks advance concept proposals that stretch the imagination, these concepts should be based on sound scientific principles and attainable within a 10 to 40-year time frame."

While budget constraints are budget constraints, I’m going to have to agree with the folks over at the NASA Watch when they say eliminating the NIAC is a big mistake.

"This is just plain stupid. Let me repeat this for clarity’s sake, Mike [Griffin, NASA Administrator & "head honcho"], (whoever made it) this is A STUPID DECISION. Advanced spacesuits that will open the surface of the moon – and then Mars- to meaningful and productive human exploration, tethers and other innovative and upmass-saving technologies, and other in-space technologies.

Where are you going to get all of the things you need to put on those Ares rockets so as to allow their crews to carry out their missions, Mike? Or do you "just need a good map"? Explorers without the right tools die – or turn around – and head back home. Wrong answer, Mike."

Right on!