VIEWS ON US COMMITMENT TO SPACE: Discord at NASA as Obama announces changes...

  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16412

    Apr 15, 2010 4:40 PM GMT
    Interesting events today as Obama travels to Florida to announce changes in US space plans. I've been listening carefully as I've always been into space, astronomy and the science to get us there. Certainly the following are true:

    1. We have a limited amount of money available
    2. US commitment to space hasn't been substantial (in my view) since the end of the Moon exploration and
    3. It is time we move on from the "shuttle scene".

    Under the Bush plan, the space station wouldn't receive support after 2015, Obama restores that, but ditches plans to return to the moon.

    I would have to think carefully about my views, but I'm not happy that human flight seems to have been shut down again. On the other hand, if we are going to return to the moon, it should be for a very specific reason and as a stepping stone to Mars and study of the outer planets.

    From CNN:

    (CNN) -- President Obama on Thursday travels to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to try to sell his vision for the space program and assuage workers' concerns about his plan.

    Obama's proposal would pump $6 billion into NASA over the next six years, but would pull the plug on a project to send astronauts to the moon.

    The White House budget office said the Constellation Program, which had sought to send astronauts back to the moon by 2020, is behind schedule, over budget and overall less important than other space investments.

    The administration would instead invest in deep space exploration and scientific development.

    White House officials insist that while the president wants to shift priorities, space exploration is not in trouble.

    NASA's future, as outlined in the White House documents, would include a multibillion-dollar modernization of Kennedy Space Center, expansion of private-sector and commercial space industries, creation of thousands of jobs and eventually human travel to Mars. Instead of being scrapped as originally proposed, the Orion crew capsule would be used as an emergency vehicle to reach crews at the International Space Station.

    White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday that the plan represents "a sustainable investment in our continued returning to space."

    The president's strategy will "provide more jobs for the area, greater investment in innovation, more astronaut time in space, more rockets launching sooner, and a more ambitious and sustainable space program for America's future," Gibbs said.

    But the proposal, which has not yet been approved by Congress, troubles lawmakers from states where space centers are located. A shift in priorities means jobs are at stake.

    The main space centers in the United States are Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Marshall Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama; and Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

    Allard Beutel, news chief at the Kennedy Space Center, told CNN that layoffs there will likely reach the 7,000 range with the end of NASA's space shuttle fleet and the cancellation of the Constellation program.

    The space shuttle fleet is scheduled to be retired at the end of this year, leaving the Russian Soyuz capsules as the only avenue into space until commercial ventures are ready to do the job, expected to be years away.

    NASA says it's much less expensive to use Russia's Soyuz to transport astronauts to the space station. Private companies say they'll be able to do it for even less.

    Leroy Chiao, a former astronaut and the current vice president of Excalibur Almaz, a private manned space flight company, said it's time to "give the commercial guys a chance."

    "NASA's job really should be to focus on pushing outside of low-earth orbit, of either going to explore near-earth asteroids, going back to the moon to test architecture and modules and hardware, operations for an eventual visit to Mars. So, NASA really should be thinking farther," he said, adding that private companies could serve as a "taxi service" for NASA.

    Some well-known astronauts criticized Obama's plan on Wednesday, saying in a letter that, "the USA is far too likely to be on a long downhill slide to mediocrity."

    "America must decide if it wishes to remain a leader in space. If it does, we should institute a program which will give us the very best chance of achieving that goal."

    The letter was signed by the first and last men to walk on the moon -- Neil Armstrong from Apollo 11 and Eugene Cernan from Apollo 17 -- and James Lovell, who commanded the heroic Apollo 13 flight.

    They praised Obama's increase in total funding for space exploration, which includes money for research, the international space station and a heavy-lift rocket. But the astronauts said the decision to cancel the Constellation program for manned space flight "is devastating."

  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Jul 23, 2010 11:59 PM GMT
    I'm beginning to think that all the bright minds at NASA need to be turned toward Earth.

    Going to another planet to do anything useful will require long term living arrangements or long term mining operations or something like that. There will also be the pesky problem of dealing with terrible alien conditions.

    So why not try to do something like build a city under the ocean about 2 miles down. Maybe the materials and things they develop doing this would assist is developing potential habitats on IO where there would be water and possible life under the ice coating.

    The research from this would have direct applicability here on earth. Maybe they could even develop a way to work better at really deep ocean depths in case we have to do something like plug a well.

    Another thing they could work on is terra-forming. If they could build a machine that can suck vast amounts of carbon dioxide out of the air and turn it into carbon block and O2. That might be useful and necessary if we find a planet that needs some environmental adjustment to be habitable.
    And maybe we could find some use for that here on Earth.