Some years ago (maybe seven) I sat down in an airport next to a young lady who was also going to Boston; she was a student at MIT.
Something was going on in the news that day (ubiquitous CNN in airports) regarding NASA. This led to a rather ….. discouraging conversation, where she bemoaned the fact that nobody was trying to solve “hard problems” the way NASA did back in the days of the Apollo moon program. NASA had devolved into a maintenance garage for a flying brick (the space shuttle) and so the only people, in her mind, that were trying to solve anything resembling a hard problem were Boeing, McDonnell Douglass, Lockheed, etc.
Obviously she had an aerospace bias, but her comments rang true in many ways. She wanted to study, research, and BUILD something, not sit around in a room and theorize on how it was going to be built….. someday in the future.
To a serious extent, the problem she alluded to has metastasized. There are a few private companies now pushing the space technology limits (one wonders if she found her way to SpaceX), and some more applied research in areas like clean energy, but we have several mammoth technical organizations that everyone seems to want to work for that really do not much more than consumer electronics (Apple) and use social media as a way to sell advertising.
I could see at the time how she was frustrated, and I’m not sure much has gotten better.