To Boldly Study Where Thousands Have Studied Before

This is a blog article that my husband wrote a few weeks ago to his blog.  I agree and would like to post it here on my blog.

To Boldly Study Where Thousands Have Studied Before

(Before reading this post, I want you to understand that not only did I vote for President Obama, I donated money to his campaign. I was a supporter. Obviously, I am no longer a supporter.)

Last week, our President announced his "vision" (I use the term loosely) for space. He wants to cancel the Constellation program that would send the US to the Moon and Mars. He wants to turn things over to private industry. He wants NASA to spend more time studying global climate change. He also wants more studies before we build a new heavy lift booster.

When the shuttle program ends later this year, we will no longer have the capability to launch our astronauts to the ISS. Hey, but don't worry! The Russians will launch our astronauts for the discount price of $46,000,000 per astronaut. Hold on, this just in. The Russians have just increased the price to $51,000,000 per astronaut. Supply and demand, you understand.

NASA currently has nearly two dozen satellites either currently studying global climate change or scheduled to be launched. Why do we need more? The truth is, we don't. NASA is doing and will continue to do an outstanding job studying Earth's climate. As we've seen over the last year, reality places no part in the planning of this Administration.

What about the privatization of space? I remember watching with excitement, in 2004, SpaceShipOne successfully winning the X-Prize. Mike Melvill and Brian Binnie piloted SpaceShipOne and became the first astronauts launched into space on a privately owned and built spacecraft.

This was just the first step. It wouldn't be long until SpaceShipTwo would be launching private citizens into space. Over five years later, it still hasn't happened. Scaled Composites has rolled out SpaceShipTwo, but launches will not occur until 2011, at the earliest. This means that it will have taken nearly seven years, at best, to launch a private spacecraft into space. And, this will be a suborbital flight.

SpaceX has a very aggressive launch schedule on their website. The first launch was scheduled for 2009 with four launches scheduled for 2010. Unfortunately, nothing has happened. According to SpaceX, the first flight is now April or May, assuming no further problems arise.

My comments are in no way meant to be critical of these companies. It is a complicated business launching rockets. These problems are to be expected. Eventually, they will succeed in putting satellites into orbit. But, that's a long way from having the capability to put a manned mission in orbit.

I'm quite surprised to see that the Administration suddenly has faith in business. Their rhetoric, attempts to regulate and control, and desire to tax, belie their sudden conversion and faith in the business community. The reality is that it will be over a decade, if not longer, before these businesses will be able to launch men into low Earth orbit. We'll just continue relying on the Russians.

(I really wonder how NASA Administrator Charles Boldin felt last week when he held a press conference supporting the NASA budget. He presented seven businessmen like the Mercury astronauts were introduced, with all sort of hype, whistles and bells. He also said the reversing direction "Ain't going to happen." [I wouldn't be so sure. There are many powerful Senators and Representatives who are telling Boldin and Obama - "Ain't going to happen."] He appears to believe that giving private corporations $6,000,000,000 will make all the problems these companies are having go way. He continued to echo the Administration and considered this reassuring NASA employees. All this from a former astronaut. What an embarrassment!)

We saw administrations who had to get their hands on the design of the shuttle and what happened to it. It has never lived up to its promise.

If you've ever been to the Air and Space Museum, you can walk through a mock-up of Skylab. That mock-up was the second Skylab built by NASA. Nixon and Carter saw to it that it would never fly. Early in the Skylab program, NASA meet with the Russians about a joint mission - Russians to Skylab, Americans to Salyut. Things could not be worked out in time to do it on one of the three Skylab missions. That was okay, the Russians said. We'll do it when you launch the next Skylab. NASA told them time, and time again that it would not be launched. They didn't believe NASA. They were sure American wouldn't be stupid enough to build a second space station and not launch it. They were wrong.

We saw over half-a-dozen major redesigns to the ISS. It went from being able to house a crew of up to seven. There has never been more than three astronauts. It takes 2 1/2 astronauts just to maintain the ISS. So we're paying for a space station, paying to send astronauts to a space station, to they can maintain it. Very little science, industry, medicine, etc. is being done. What a waste.

After 1969, NASA lost among the best and brightest first generation aerospace engineers. The corporate knowledge (if you will) that was lost was irreplaceable. We are now seeing the loss of the best and brightest among the second generation. We're making the same mistakes we made forty years ago, and will pay the same price we paid forty years ago.

Once the shuttle program ends, America will no longer have a booster powerful enough to lift a heavy payload into space. In 2011, the Juno spacecraft will be launched on a mission to Jupiter. We can't launch directly. We have to fly-by Earth at least once for Juno to travel fast enough to reach Jupiter in five years. The MESSENGER Mercury mission was launched August 2004. It had to fly-by Earth and Venus once, and Mercury three times to slow MESSENGER to the point that it can enter and orbit around Mercury March 2011, seven years after launch.

I guess we should be comforted that, once again, we're going to begin a study to come up with a new heavy-lift booster (hence the title of this post - one I modified from an article I read). Obama has never meet a study he didn't like. Let's waste time and money. We already have three options. If Constellation is not the best approach, then look at the other two. Don't remake the wheel so you can remake the wheel so you can remake the wheel...

I find it incomprehensible that, at a time of high unemployment, that Obama would do things to increase that unemployment. He should keep in mind what our illustrious VP said during the 2008 campaign. The people are concerned about a "three letter word - J-O-B-S!" Biden proclaimed. ATK Launch Systems has lost a thousand jobs in the last year. More will be lost over the next two years. Obama tells us he understands the problems of the unemployed, then pursues policies that increase unemployment. But, inconsistency is the only constant from this Administration.

I read a most stupid comment I read talked about those who felt we shouldn't spend money on space, but that we should be spending money on creating jobs. Where do these people think NASA's money goes? It goes to creating Biden's "three letter word - J-O-B-S." Tell those laid off from ATK that the money should go to creating jobs. Tell those who haven't been able to find jobs in the poor economy that the money should go to jobs. Money should go to creating jobs. Schiller was right when he said "Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain."

There is something about human nature that makes us want to climb over the next hill to see what's on the other side. It's like we have, hidden in our genes, the desire to explore and learn more. President Kennedy understood this when he said:

"Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

"... Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, 'Because it is there.'

"Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked"

Not too long ago, we had elected officials who had a vision for tomorrow. We had elected officials who were willing to make long term commitments without concern about party or the next election. We've lost that vision in America today.

It's time for us to stand up and say we aren't going to put up with this anymore. We want to keep American great. We don't want our President to say that American is exceptional, but that Greeks think they are exceptional, British think they are exceptional. (Yeah. If everyone is exceptional, no one is.) We need to keep America the great and unique country we have been, even though we have leaders who seem to have forgotten how.



Judy Ferguson said…
Well said. Looking forward to a better day.

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