“The NASA technical reports server will be unavailable for public access
while the agency conducts a review of the site’s content to ensure that it
does not contain technical information that is subject to U.S. export control laws
and regulations and that the appropriate reviews were performed.
The site will return to service when the review is complete.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”
One of the most appealing things about contemplating a wide open future for the human race spilling out into the solar system is the thought that given enough opportunities, it may be possible to improve on the generally dismal quality of governments here on Earth.
With that in mind, the final week in March has gotten off to a poor start with the news that NASA has taken its entire technical server database off-line, in what can only be described as a hysterical overreaction to perpetual witch hunt for Chinese espionage being conducted by Congressman Frank Wolf, Republican, of Virginia.
NASA’s technical reports server contains a vast database of information and reports hard-earned over a hundred years of effort going all the way back to the Wright Brothers, essentially the Library of Alexandria for space and aeronautics. Now, over fears that somewhere within its archives may reside sensitive information which escaped vetting in the first place, and certainly concerned about Wolf’s power over NASA’s budget, the agency has shut off all access pending reviews. As space policy analyst Dr. Dwayne Day observes, if NASA actually intends to conduct a thorough review, the archive, which includes the technical reports from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs may never be re-opened.
The precipitating incident is the arrest for alleged espionage of a former NASA contractor employee and Chinese national Bo Jiang, who was working at NASA Langley and is accused of sending sensitive information to China. The case against Jiang, who has asked for a jury trial, is far from solid, and as this report points out, news coverage surrounding the arrest was both factually inaccurate and clearly sensationalistic (he was arrested inside Dulles airport, not on a plane) and his defense attorney, a formal federal prosecutor has taken the unusual step of challenging Representative Wolf to appear in court and be subjected to cross-examination.
While Jiang’s guilt or innocence will ultimately be determined where it should, in the courts, the shut down of NASA’s technical reports server is yet another example of the chilling effect a single politician or bureaucrat can have on an entire industry, and there are many examples from the other side of the aisle as well.
Is China actively attempting to steal technology from the U.S? Of course it is, and the U.S., like any nation, corporation or individual is justified in taking appropriate steps to protect its “investments,” but as Hank Hill would say, “this is just asinine.”
In a somewhat related note, NASA has also announced that due to Congressional imposed sequestration, the agency is terminating all public outreach activities. Again, asinine.
China by the way, has a manned space launch capability. The United States at present does not.