Nevertheless, some critics think that NASA is failing to live up to its promise (Klerkx, 2004). It may be, however, that NASA is simply not living up to the dreams of some of its critics.
The mission statement and vision statement of NASA, as is true of most organizations, tend to change over time as the focus of the organization shifts. Shifts in focus most frequently occur because of changes in an organization's external environment or its internal capacities. In the case of governmental organizations such as NASA, however, the mission statement and vision statement of an organization such as NASA change in relation to the penchants of politicians currently in power. Changes of this latter variety need not be negative events; however, the potential for political expediency to displace more rational motivations for change certainly exists.
The enabling Act in 1958 created NASA's initial mission statement. The organization's mission statement then was as follows:
To advance and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe and use the environment of space for research. To explore, use, and enable the development of space for human enterprise. To research, develop, verify, and transfer advanced aeronautics, space, and related technologies. (National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, 1958)