Aeronautics Research Suffers During Budget Crisis
Is NASA's quest for an
increased presence in space neglecting the very foundation those
journeys will be built upon? Some scientists say yes... that
stellar myopia is causing NASA to let go of aeronautics research
that has allowed the United States to maintain a worldwide lead in
aviation for years.
The reason? Budgetary concerns, of course... and with only so
much funding to go around, NASA's higher-profile projects are
getting the bulk of the funds.
"[The aeronautics] budget is just going to suffer horrendously,"
said Alex Roland, a professor of technology history at Duke
University. "I don't know if it will disappear... [but] I wouldn't
want to depend on NASA anytime soon for aeronautics research."
While you may not see a NASA logo on your airplane, or the next
commercial airliner you fly on... items such as deicing technology
and composite fan blades have their roots in NASA research.
project -- the Small Aircraft Transport System, or SATS -- has been
called nothing less than the future of private aviation... and some
fear without NASA lending a hand, both general and commercial
aviation will suffer.
"It's certainly a concern because who's going to pick up the
gap," said Christina Frederick-Recascino, associate provost at
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which has partnered with NASA
on aeronautics research, and counts the agency as one of its top
USA Today reports several NASA labs are already feeling the
Personnel at Ohio's Glenn Research Center, Langley Research
Center in Virginia, and California's Ames and Dryden Flight
research centers were reportedly stung by NASA Administrator
Michael Griffin's comments earlier this month, that the fate of
aeronautics is akin to that of slide rule makers in the United
"The last slide rule maker went out of business I think in
1975," Griffin said June 5, when declaring what roles the agency's
labs would play in developing the next-generation Crew Exploration
Vehicle. "We simply are not doing all of the things that all of our
centers once did."
As Aero-News reported, each
of those labs received projects associated with the CEV. However,
Griffin added the aeronautics heritage of those facilities
"just doesn't fit" with NASA's new goals... and if those labs want
to see continued funding, they'd better adapt... and quickly.
Lisa Porter, NASA's associate administrator for aeronautics,
maintains the agency is not giving up on aircraft... but is instead
focusing more on long-term research. With a sharper focus on
cutting edge priorities, Porter asserts, NASA's future goals will
focus on areas such as ATC advancements and hypersonic flight.
Still, for scientists working in the field, morale has
suffered... with many wondering if NASA has forgotten that it's the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration.