Its news now – and it isn’t good.
NASA without Shuttle, without Ares, without a purposeful astronaut program post 2020. Yes, there is more than just human spaceflight activities in the space industry, I know that best, but when you take a 50 year old institution based on its valour, experience & spirit and strip away its core motivations and expertise, what are you left with?
US President Obama is expected to announce in the coming days about funding for NASA and the US Space Program’s future – perhaps linked to his upcoming State of the Union address later this evening.
2 sources (thanks to friends for sending them over) already state that “Moon is dead” and for good reason. Although their sourced references in the articles are anonymous, that’s politics for you.
http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-na-nasa-budget27-2010jan27,0,1252176.story – The LA Times
http://www.spacepolitics.com/2010/01/27/the-moon-is-dead/ – Jeff Foust @ Spacepolitics.com
***UPDATE: http://spacenews.com/policy/100122-budget-increase-nasa-fate-ares-unclear.html – Space News***
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35131431/ns/technology_and_science-space/ – MSNBC – Although I wish they would get their facts correct – you can’t put Virgin Galactic and Boeing into the same category – VG is only suborbital flight and Boeing predominately orbtial! Big difference MSNBC.
Why is this announcement so shocking, or at least so important?
Because the rest of the world’s agencies (perhaps even China) will feed off of the US’s plan. Perhaps there is to be a shift in the space leadership – fine, but when ESA, CSA, Russia, JAXA and others have been stalling making future plans for Lunar+ directions because of waiting on the US – looks like they’ve got their own individual futures, or perhaps collaborations themselves to think about – and fast.
Think for a moment:
The US without its own launcher in at least the next 2 decades – ok using the Russians through till 2020 when the Space Station is out is great temporary solution – but then what? What of the current and future astronaut corps? What of the scientific research regarding the human body, biology, physics and chemistry in microgravity? The technical spinoffs and spinins, the inspirational advantage? The incredible number of students and professional who are engaged to enter space-related fields? Of course all of this won’t come to a sudden crashing halt – some of it will continue, but this HUGE blow to the core of NASA’s space activities will hurt them significantly. Such is the politics of space. Oh, and you can’t just build a rocket in 5 years and hope to send humans to the Moon – this isn’t the 1960’s anymore. You have to start early – apparently that starting date will not be seen in the foreseeable future. “Flexible Path” it seems is the choice to go forward as suggested by the Augustine Commission…
I appreciate the immense technologies and superior advantage Earth Observation & remote sensing has brought to our society – everything from agricultural sustainability, disaster management, GPS/GALILEO/GLONASS to Google Maps. But basing an entire program around EO/RS principles is tough to engage the population, the people who give you the money, to give you the money. Humans connect with humans, its just an affinity that is inherent in our nature.
There are other means – commercial. Efforts as the X-Prize, NGLLC, SpaceX, and others were spurred by the latent bureaucratic ways of government agencies, to try and take efforts another step themselves – looks like they’ve just been doled their opportunity on a silver platter.