"We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard...."
— John F. Kennedy, Rice University, September 1962July 20th is the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Over the course of its life, NASA has employed two distinct modes of operation. The first prevailed during the period from 1961 to 1973, and may therefore be called the Apollo Mode. The second, prevailing since 1974, may usefully be called the Random Mode.The author makes the point that, after adjusting for inflation, the amount of money NASA had available, per year, 1961-1973 was only 18% more than 2001-2014. What is missing is the will to do something.
In the Apollo Mode, business is conducted as follows. First, a destination for human space flight is chosen. Then a plan is developed to achieve the objective. Following this, technologies and designs are developed to implement the plan. These designs are then built, after which the mission is flown.
In the Random Mode, projects are undertaken on behalf of various internal and external technical-community pressure groups and then defended using rationales (not reasons). In the Apollo Mode, the space agency’s efforts are focused and directed. In the Random Mode, NASA’s efforts are scatterbrained and entropic.