I think part of the problem is lack of public interest and NASA is dropping the ball in this area. One of my most unforgettable experiences was visiting an open house at the John son Space Center. It was geared to families and areas normally closed to the public where opened. My son got to shake hands with Rick Husbands and there were several shuttle astronauts available for autographs. We got to see moon rocks up close as well as go in a simulator. The event lasted all day and was a highlight for our entire family. It was filled with families and was an obvious success attendance-wise. Of course we went home with a model shuttle craft with a remote control and all the bells and whistles, serving to stimulate my then pre-schoolers imagination and love for all things space. Since then over the years, I have checked with NASA about there next open house only to find they had stopped doing them. We need to bring the excitement of space back to a generation that is so desensitized to its incredible beauty due to the nature of computer graphics that makes them feel like they have already seen everything. When you take a kid out into the country so that they feel like they can actually reach up and touch the stars, it changes their perspective. Introduce them to the real workings of space technology, it generates excitement. We need more public exposure to these sort of things!
Naperlou, I wonder if the sluggishness of development at NASA is because there is no outside impending deadline. The moonshot was driven by the desire to beat the Soviets to the moon -- that plus Kennedy's "end of the decade" challenge. What would force a deadline now? Nothing really.
Over the years I worked in space applications. Many of them were military, but several were NASA programs. The amount of technology developed for these programs was tremendous. On the other hand, they take way too long. I will give you an example. I worked on the ISS in the 1980s (it may not have had the I back then). I found that there were people on out team that had worked on it in the 1970s. What was eventually launched was not much different from what we could have launched in the 1980s. The point is that people tend to fall away from these programs becuase they take several times longer that they need to. I believe that this is part of the reason that programs do not get the public support they need.
Another issue is that NASA often limits the technology used to play it safe (and I am not talking about crew safety). This means that the technology launched is often obsolete before it goes up. NASA needs to change, but in addition, we need to provide funding in a more reliable way. That means we either have to say, we will spend this much, or that we will have goals that we are trying to reach, and fund those. I don't see either happening any time soon.
A customer who was thermal printing strip steel had a problem: When the strip's speed increased, the thermo printer would catch fire. When he set a flame to a piece of the strip, he couldn't get it to burn. What was the problem?
Engineers are well positioned to be the leaders for innovation in this new age of machines. Human-centered design enables us to manage the vast amounts of information and the power of technology in solving the world’s problems.