How does NASA’s repurposing affect the search for life (of any kind, assuming reasonable expectations) on other planets? Here, Mark Baisley is CEO of Slipglass, a defense-intelligence contractor specializing in information security, comments on “whither NASA?”,
Once the Space Shuttle Atlantis returns from its final mission next month, the U.S. will put on hold its manned space flight program. It will be at least five years before the Orion “crew vehicle” and its intended launch vehicle, the Space Launch System, are ready to return astronauts to space.While unmanned launches will continue, many aerospace professionals are lamenting the absence of an American program for transporting humans into space. But I see a positive here. The commercial interests for a human presence in space will create the kind of market need that can only be met by the kind of extraordinary innovation that Americans are famous for. I predict that the baton will naturally be passed from the government-operated NASA to private firms who will find resourceful ways to meet the demand.
– “NASA Innovation is Gov Exception that Proves Rule,” Townhall, 6/5/2011
These investments may be too risky or too colossal for private industry to initiate. And answering some of the big questions, like how the universe began, will have no monetary return.
Note: He also advises,
Perhaps the sweetest example of a successful transition from government-sponsored invention to commercial operation is the Internet. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched the Internet in the same year that Neil Armstrong set his first foot on the Moon. While governments do maintain a regulatory role, their involvement is miniscule compared to the massively diverse commercial operation of the World Wide Web.
But see here (“Think governments don’t want control of the Internet/Read this.” for information on a completely serious and intentional government attempt to control the Internet.