Time for the space vision thing

April 15, 2010

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida – My head is spinning as I sit here waiting for President Obama to do what should have been done when the White House rolled out its budget for NASA: do the vision thing.

I have faith in POTUS to deliver the goods and explain his revolutionary approach to space exploration.

Here are a few things to remember as you watch the speech and listen to the spin:

The dramatic job loss that has so many people riled is not the result of the Obama White House shift in space. The shuttle retirement was actually set in stone by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. The shuttle fleet could fly on longer – each orbiter is rated to fly 100 flights – but the CAIB decided that it was time to move on to the next thing in space. Something safer.

Obama is also not responsible for the so-called “gap” between the shuttle and whatever is next. The gap is an artifact of inattention and meager funding over several years. Even before the CAIB gave us a date certain for retiring the shuttles, we knew the fleet could not – and should not – fly forever. And yet no one on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue had the persistence and forethought to insist the investment in a new ride be healthy and timely enough to give U.S. astronauts seamless access to space on U.S. vehicles once the orbiters were chalked and pickled in museums. George Bush painted a vision for space exploration that was bold and exciting – but it never got the funding it needed to get off the ground.

This is the hand Team Obama has been dealt. The shuttles are going away – and the program of record is way over budget and behind schedule. The gap is now a chasm – and those shuttle jobs cannot be saved no matter what.

So what to do? Obama could double down on the Bush vision, but the truth is that would be good money after bad. It also means NASA would have to deep-six the International Space Station at the end of 2015 (no money to pay for it – and the moonshot program known as Constellation) and would have to continue shorting budgets for technology development, earth sciences, robotic missions and aeronautics research.

Now imagine dropping the station into the Pacific in five years – after 25 years of construction it is finally all but complete – and in a position to yield some scientific discoveries. And imagine what kind of message this would send to the 15 other nations who are a part of the ISS project.

So couple all this with the fact that some things have changed since Bush announced his vision in 2004. The time now is ripe for a new brand of companies to make their mark in space. Why shouldn’t the government stimulate a new sector of the economy – instead of stifling it?

4 comments

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Americans are peculiar beasts. The take to the streets and protest their “high” taxes and their higher deficit/debt; yet they don’t hesitate to take to the streets to ask the Federal government to spend more more on things the country clearly cannot afford. Interesting how this pattern mirrors their personal lives; maybe the problem is not the government at all.

Posted by bikebrainiac | Report as abusive

It’s only 48% of Americans that are confused. The 52% that voted for Gore and continue to fight for what we believe are golden.

Posted by JoeMulick | Report as abusive

I couldn’t agree more with you bikebrainiac.

Posted by USSoldier | Report as abusive

So we are going to Mars, they must be sprinkling space dust on the food in Air Force One.

JFK makes such announcements, and he stuck to the Moon, for good reason.

This is BO’s second biggest blunder, not even a kid would believe it. The first blunder was using the work ‘kill’ twice in his Nobel Peace Prize Speech.

Einstein allowed himself one blunder, and he ended up in a garden cottage with a bicycle.

Posted by Ghandiolfini | Report as abusive