Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Obama's Budget Would Cut NASA's Moon Plan

I know that we're in the middle of a serious economic recession but I still have to say that I hate to see this happen:

The Obama administration is killing Constellation, NASA's ambitious back-to-the moon program. The decision represents a thunderous demolition of the Bush-era strategy at the space agency, which had already poured $9 billion into a new rocket, the Ares 1, and a new crew capsule, Orion.

Both were years from completion. And now both have been spiked by the administration's 2011 budget, released Monday. The budget includes $2.5 billion over the next two years to shut down Constellation.

Instead of continuing to develop the Ares 1 and Orion, the administration wants to invest $6 billion over five years in a commercial space taxi to carry astronauts into low Earth orbit. The budget would also funnel billions of dollars into developing new space technologies, such as the ability to refuel spacecraft in orbit. What isn't in the budget is a specific target for exploration.
Expanding our space exploration program was one of the few issues on which I agreed with both Bush administrations, so hearing that Obama now wants to discontinue our program to return to the moon is truly a disappointment. We're only now in the infancy of our potential to eventually become a space-faring race but we may never reach that level of exploration if we don't seriously invest in its future. The Constellation Program is estimated to cost ninety-seven billion dollars through the year 2020. That's how much we've spent every year we've been in Iraq.

Think about that: one year of paying for that war would develop a replacement fleet for our aging space shuttles along with new vehicles to carry us to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Obama's budget tries to do this through commercial means but without an overarching goal of extra-planetary exploration NASA will lack the inspirational vision to focus those newly developed capabilities. My only consolation in all of this is that these commercial taxis might help to hasten the opportunities for civilians like myself to one day travel into space ourselves.


Leslie Parsley said...

I have no desire to land on the moon or to go anywhere in space, but I agree that it's a shame to kill Constellation. I've always been excited about the space program and have always felt that it showed the ingenuity of our country.

JBW said...

Space exploration is my own selfish indulgence, Leslie. I know that now is not the best time to be spending that kind of money on what for the time being is mostly research but having come out of a booming economy for several years in which our space exploration was still a pittance of our entire budget I fear that there will never be a time when we embrace it until becomes absolutely necessary. And then it might be too late.

Aron Ranen said...

In 2000 I was paid by the State of Ohio to make a film attempting to prove Apollo 11 was real.

I was able to interview Buzz Aldrin, Gene Cernan, Karl Sendler, Guenter Wendt, Raplh Rene, ..look at moon rocks, send a giant laser to bounce off the reflector...

Posted the whole thing on YOUTUBE. The Documentary film premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

here is link

Please share on facebook...thanks

magpie said...

Of course Apollo 11 was real. Not just 11 either, 12 men in total have walked on the moon and others have flown around it.
It would be more difficult to construct and maintain the fiction than to achieve the reality.
I would believe Elvis is playing pool with aliens in Area 51 before I thought the lunar landing was a hoax.

When the shuttles are retired shortly, the only way for American personnel to get into space, for a little while, will be to hitch a ride on Russian Soyuz capsules.
There is surprisingly little dismay about that.
Imagine telling that to your neighbors back in 1969, right after the eagle landed: "yeah but we'll lose interest in going to the moon and instead sink our money into a war in Indochina - which will fail - after which the Russians will have bigger problems than winning the cold war, and yet by 2011 we'll be relying on them to get us into space".
No sci fi writer in the world would have imagined such a scenario. Not even Russian ones.
China isn't going to be shy about space exploration either.

Personally I would like to have the adventure of manned interplanetary exploration and settlement at least begin while I'm alive, because it's got to happen eventually if mankind is to have a future long term, and it would give the world a sense that there is indeed a future... and we're not just paying bills and upgrading our TV and twiddling our thumbs till the next mass extinction happens.

I make one prediction of comparatively trivial detail:
The first man on Mars, American or not, will be a woman.

Somehow I have a vision of it.

JBW said...

I don't get it, magpie: is there a bunch of dirty dishes and laundry that needs folding on Mars right now? Kidding, ladies; kidding!

Anonymous said...

I don't get it either. What business do women have in space if there isn't a man to serve?

JBW said...

Even if the first man on Mars is a woman one L, you can rest assured that the next person down the ladder will be a man. Who else would fly the spaceship?