Today is the 40th anniversary of Apollo 17. It was the last time humans left lower Earth orbit and traveled outside the bounds of Earth's gravity. It was also the fulfillment of a specific vision first laid out by President Kennedy when he challenged the nation to land men on the moon by the end of the decade.
The power of a vision can make a government agency do the impossible. The lack of a clear, focused vision can also leave an agency foundering as the recent report by the National Academy of Sciences stated in their current assessment of NASA.
"In his statement, NASA's Weaver said: 'We're fully utilizing the International Space Station; developing a heavy-lift rocket and multi-purpose crew vehicle capable of taking American astronauts into deep space; facilitating development of commercial capabilities for cargo and crew transport to low Earth orbit; expanding our technological capabilities for the human and robotic missions of today and tomorrow; pursuing a robust portfolio of science missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope; developing faster and cleaner aircraft and inspiring the next generation of exploration leaders.'
Smith said that statement itself shows the problem: "If it takes you that many phrases to explain it, then you do not have a crisp, clear strategic vision."