It was the same situation during the original space race.
Michael Browne

Thank you for the response and read :) You make a very good point, my criticism of the procurement and contract process at NASA is a bit shallow and disjointed, as it is an immensely complex process.

To the extent that NASA’s budget has never since approached that of its Apollo days, it makes a great deal of sense that NASA chooses to reuse as much as possible when pursuing contracts for launch vehicle design and manufacturing (and this is not to say that the Mercury through Saturn programs were optimally manufactured and designed, although they were quite purpose-built, something that STS and SLS arguably share to a much lesser extent).

However, I generally find that this is not much of a consolation, and is actually a good illustration of the flaws of NASA’s hands-on procurement processes and mindset as of late. Rather than choosing to build the best vehicle for the job, they find themselves caring more about how much money they spend and where they spend that money (as is innate to the procurement process), even as they utilize contractors and cost-plus style contracts that are equally and innately fiscally inefficient.

The worst part of this is that somewhere along this circuitous evolutionary path, NASA has constructed a process that apparently creates vehicles that are far less safe than they ought to be. The SLS is looking to potentially be as bad as anything in NASA’s history, and already has demonstrable systematic/managerial problems, particularly with its flight software and the methodology (or lackthereof) being used to test it and verify its readiness.

Maybe these symptoms are just consequences of an array of innate aspects of current U.S. procurement and contracting processes, maybe they are warning signs suggesting that NASA (and Congress/the Senate) need to seriously reconsider their approach to space exploration. Either way, something is, in my humble opinion, clearly out of place.

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