Today I retire from 43-year career as a physicist for NASA. I look back to when I began working at Langley Research Center in 1959. At that time, NASA research centers had a base program and there was no expectation that our research was to be applied. My goal at that time was to work on long term problems and solutions.
The current method in government research is to work on projects with a one or two year payoff. This is where our nation's corporations have gone in the last few years. Government is now following corporate America's lead in pursuing instant gratification rather than research which reaches over the horizon. It is now an MBA-driven culture, one which is anithetical to the long horizon stuff that inevitably leads to future breakthroughs.
I have had a wonderful career at NASA and I've been at the edge as I watched research from our laboratories change the world. But I am not pleased with the direction the agency is now pursuing, and I regret that a young physicist now beginning his or her career will not have the same opportunities I have had to dream, to explore their vision. This is to the detriment of NASA and to our nation.
The one big lesson I have learned in 43 years as a scientific researcher: the type of research we pursue is not as important as the horizon.
Distinguished Research Associate
NASA—Langley Research Center