Let’s End The Race To Space

As everyone in Huntsville knows, the President has decided to shut down the Constellation program.  The reviews are mixed as to the why, and really… all the tea party conservatives screaming about it are being pretty hypocritical.  I mean, they will gather together complaining about raising taxes to give people health insurance, but complain about cutting a billion dollar program?

That said, just like the paranoid who might be right about the people out to get him, these hypocrites are right to be concerned.  The plan essentially takes America out of the space game, handing it over to either private sector, if we are lucky, or the Chinese, if we are not.  We no longer will be the dominate space faring nation, instead hitching rides on space taxis that have yet to be developed.

It’s that “yet to be developed” that has me worried.  NASA went the private route once before, hoping private industry could come up with a cargo transport to end our reliance on Russia to deliver cargo to the International Space Station.  It never launched a rocket.  These were cargo ships, not manned vessels, who’s complexity increases dramatically.

Let’s face it, the private space race is a dismal failure.  Yea, you got a couple of groups firing satellites into space using old missiles, but no one but Virgin even attempting manned flights, and the Virgin concept is sub-orbital not heavy lifting to to the ISS.

I love space.  I love NASA.  When I watched Crippen and Young fly into space on Columbia for the first time, I was convinced that the Shuttle was the future.  Cheap access to earth orbit.  Building space stations and then space ships in earth orbit, heading to the Moon.  As a naive fifth grader, I was sure that the Shuttle ended the space race, and that my first job interview would be on the Moon.

Then the shuttle turned out to be a economic flop.  It wasn’t cheap to fly, not significantly cheaper than the old rockets.  It was reusable, and lifted quite a bit, but it wasn’t cheap.  And didn’t get cheaper.  We didn’t start building a space station for years later, and then with the nightmare of “international” agreements that meant we paid for it, and we repaired the shoddy work of other countries.

Follow on shuttle programs were underfunded, and even Clinton never spent his “peace dividend” money on space.  I’m not a naive fifth grader any more and today I have serious doubts that my children will get a chance to see the Moon from it’s surface.   So maybe it IS time to move from NASA to private industry.  Even if private industry will be starting from essentially the ground floor.

How much worse could they do?  We’ve already given the Moon to China, so we might as well aim for Mars…  I suppose.  I mean, why not?  Let NASA get back to research, then pimp our tax dollars out to the highest bidder in the private sector.  It’s as valid an idea as the last six years of sliding budgets and sliding time tables of Constellation.

But something about an America that buys space on taxis to get into orbit bothers me.  In my core.  Maybe I’m too much of a space geek, since I got excited to learn that the Russian’s cheated on their race to space and the first “man in space” broke the agreed upon rules.  So the idea that it may not be America that is the first to Mars, but some international corporation, is annoying.

Maybe I’m just bummed.  Maybe I’m cranky.  Maybe I can’t see past the dust cloud that was Constellation to see the glory of what is to come.  But I’ll give Obama this…  He really shook up this town.

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11 thoughts on “Let’s End The Race To Space

  1. Runwolf, I think they must be idiots due to we have NO MONEY. They need to come back to earth and it’s problem’s defore they can try to find something to about planets that we can not inhabit and leave everything else behind. It’s not like they have the time or money for political games with any other nations. China may well be able to afford the cash to trash but the U.S. has me to use for cash to trash. See where that got us? The cost of deception is far far more than playing with toys that are meaningless in this time and all times. What a waste of the taxpayers money. If they were smart they would kick back and let them spend their money and learn from them! No one can deny that china has got more marbles than we do . And that has always been true of the people. Besides that their donuts are better than our’s.

  2. I would only point out that the tea parties don’t oppose all spending, or all government. They simply advocate on behalf of a federal government that operates within the context of enumerated powers. Today’s federal government does a lot of things that are not within their legitimate constitutional role, but the space race and consequential defense technology developments are well within the enumerated powers. Do we need to trim the fat, absolutely! The Obama plan, in the midst of increasing spending on almost everything else, clearly has little to do with money, and plenty to do with his ideological priorities.

    • There is absolutely nothing constitutional about NASA. It is not within the constitutionally enumerated powers of government to explore space, or research advanced aerodynamics. In fact, nothing in the constitution provides for government funded scientific research. And little, if any, of the Orion/Ares/Constellation program had any military payoff. So for tea party advocates to scream about welfare and other non-constitutional programs then complain about this program being cut… well it is hypocritical.

      That doesn’t mean that this doesn’t also have everything to do with Obama’s ideology, or punishment for our district’s party swapping representative, or anything else. Nor does it mean that we shouldn’t be trying to go to the moon, as I personally think we should. But lets be honest enough to admit that some government spending is liked, some isn’t. And the difference has nothing to do with the constitution.

  3. You are wrong if you think that commercial cannot step up to the plate. In the past commercial meant one or other of the monster aerospace behemoths like Boeing or Lockheed. Those companies have no interest whatsoever in risking their shareholders money on space commercialization.
    Now SpaceX that’s a different fish altogether. They have the ability, the wherewithal and the vision to fill in the private space gaps.
    Keep a very close eye on them. They are up to the job.

    • You’ve more faith in space x than I. They couldn’t meet the financials of the COTS program, so I’ve doubts about their ability to do the space taxi business.

      But let me be clear, I don’t find this a failure of American Business per se. Show them a real profit that isn’t bogged down in government rigamorle and we’ll go to Jupiter on private funding. Keep it tied to the losing proposition of government funding and you’ll be quickly out of business.

      • Not so far.

        Private companies have still not launched manned flights to suborbital, much less orbital.

        Constellation limps on with nothing expected to launch till 2020 or later.

        China expects to be to the moon in 2018.

        So no. So far I’m dead ass accurate.

  4. There are a lot of compliance from a safety and NASA basis that have to be tested before you can put a person on top of a rocket. That’s expensive and needs government nurturing to start with, absolutely. But once the infrastructure is in place, then gentlemen start your engines.

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