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"NASA non-concurs"

Posted by Casey Dreier

30-07-2013 20:58 CDT

Topics: Space Policy

NASA's official responses to recommendations made by its official advisory council are posted online at SpaceRef. These recommendations were from April of 2013.

Of course, my eye immediately was drawn to the NAC (NASA Advisory Council) recommendation to properly fund the Planetary Science Division. NASA's response was middling at best, promising nothing but not disagreeing outright:

NASA will use the approved FY 2013 funding for Planetary Science and the outcome of the FY 2014 appropriations process to inform its future planning with respect to the formulation of the FY 2015 budget request.

Good to know there's that strong institutional support!

It's another reminder that NASA itself is not fighting for Planetary Science the way it needs to, despite the fact that the division has been responsible for some of its biggest successes (media- and mission-wise).

In response to the council's recommendation that NASA "should fight for continuance of Education and Public Outreach activities that are enabled by capabilities that are uniquely NASA's," i.e. "please stop the consolidation of all educational activities into the Department of Education which doesn't know NASA's activities all that well," NASA responded with a wonderful example of passive bureaucratic-ese that is the title of this post (emphasis mine):

NASA's Office of Education appreciates the support and insight of the NASA Advisory Council; however, NASA non-concurs with the recommendation.

I looked this up, and it really is a word, though a new one to me. How do you argue with noncurrence? It's easier if someone disagrees, but if one nonconcurs? Tricky. It's more of a circular statement than a position (by disagreeing you by definition prevent concurrence, etc).

It's worth reading all the responses [PDF] to get a glimpse into the general attitudes of the current NASA Administration. They're not all bad! But the ones we most care about aren't great.

See other posts from July 2013


Or read more blog entries about: Space Policy


Paul McCarthy: 07/31/2013 04:06 CDT

I have the clear assumption that NASA's blatant foot-dragging re Planetary Science must surely be born of fear by the Astronaut-Jock community that, given half a chance, robotic exploration will reveal all that is worthwhile to be revealed throughout the Solar System, thereby removing what flimsy pretexts there are for squandering hundreds of billions of public money flying the jocks around! (Private money's a different question - good luck to them.) I expect this mentality to continue, and I expect it to succeed given the general state of the media etc, without colossal efforts by the science community, putting great discoveries far-off into the future.

Bob Ware: 07/31/2013 10:32 CDT

Sunlight to flashlight... not good.

Torbj??rn Larsson: 07/31/2013 05:58 CDT

On the article, I think NASAology has taken over analysis. You can do only so much, in other words I non-concur with the tactics if not the strategy. @Paul McCarthy: Manned and robotic exploration is non-overlapping, for example you can't learn from robots how to live off the land. Putting it as competitive is non-factual. The real question is perhaps what to prioritize when you decide that you won't do both, even if it gives better ROI. When people do an economic analysis, given enough resources, perhaps non-intuitively manned exploration wins. (It's on arxiv, but I haven't time to find it now.) They have larger ROI for exploration, in situ experiments and what not. But we know that manned exploration won't be given enough resources. I don't think I have seen that analysis, but it is an easy guess that then robotics wins as you can always makes those the cheapest missions no matter the amount of ROI.

Torbj??rn Larsson: 07/31/2013 06:06 CDT

I fumbled that. I mean that in the end, when you shrink resources indefinitely, robotics will win.

Michael Nolan: 08/01/2013 08:35 CDT

For what little it's worth, I don't think NASA as such has any choice but to non-concur on education. It's a directive from above, which they have to follow in public. That might even explain the stilted usage: "Non-concur" is probably about as close as they would be allowed to come to "it is against policy for me to agree".

Casey Dreier: 08/01/2013 04:01 CDT

@Michael: That's the optimistic take. I don't know enough to say how much institutional support there is within the agency for this.

Mean & Anomalous: 08/01/2013 07:58 CDT

Well, it seems clear that the current administration is not all that interested in (a) planetary science and (b) NASA public outreach/education. Also, I don't agree with the anti-astronaut post above: we (i.e. NASA) should do robotic and (whenever possible) human exploration.

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