From associatedcontent.com :
Sometime in the fall of 2010 the space shuttle will launch on its last mission. In the early Spring of 2015, barring unforeseen delays, the Orion space craft will become operational, available to take crews and supplies to the International Space Station. This constitutes a gap of four and a half years during which the United States will not be able to fly its own astronauts into space. That worries folks at NASA, members of Congress, and others concerned with the course of the US civil space program.
For four and a half years it looks like the United States will be dependent on other countries, primarily Russia, to fly American astronauts to the International Space Station. Because of Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s ambitions to make his country a power to be reckoned with again, relations between the United States and Russia have become rather frosty. For almost half a decade, Russia could cut off America’s access to space at a whim.
Even though space supporters in Washington recognize this as an intolerable state of affairs, they have so far been able to do little about it. A bipartisan effort by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican from Texas, and Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland, to add a billion dollars to NASA’s budget to help narrow the four and a half year gap passed the Senate. However the effort appears likely to fail in conference with the House. In any case, the Bush Administration is taking a very dim view of adding money to any budget, even of an agency it favors, without offsets elsewhere.
Another effort, led by Rep. Dave Weldon, a Republican from Florida, would keep the shuttle orbiter fleet flying until the Orion is ready. On the surface this seems to be a mad idea. It takes about three billion dollars a year to keep the shuttle fleet operational. If the Congress cannot find the money to bring Orion closer to reality, how can it be expected to come up with six times the amount to keep the shuttle fleet flying? If Congress takes the money out of the Orion program, then the Orion is delayed, perhaps indefinitely, defeating the purpose of the exercise.
I can see this scenario happening very easily. It happened right after the Moon landing in 1969 (some people still dispute that). The hue and cry was “We can better spend the money here on Earth” and “There are poor people who need the money” and etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum.
Well, the U.S. space program has been under-funded for over thirty years and I pose this question to the nay-sayers of space exploration, “Did the money get spent on the poor?”, “Did the money get better spent on the Earth?”, and “Can you guess where the money went?”
Well folks, I’m waiting for a logical answer.
If those of you that have the where-with-all and honesty to speak up and say, “Er, the military-industrial-congressional-complex?”, give yourselves a pat on the back and a cigar!
All we have to show for the past thirty years are alot of weapons of mass destruction, a federal deficit ten miles deep and a whole bunch of folk pissed off at us.
Now I can’t prove if American support for the space program didn’t waver during the 1970s we’d have colonies on the Moon or Mars, or solar energy satellites in orbit around the planet supplying our energy needs instead of fossil fuels. But I can say one thing for certain, we would have alot more return for the investment of our tax money than we do now. How much return are we getting for our tax money right now by supplying warm bodies to the meat-grinder in the Middle East at the moment? I bet investing in NASA during the 1970s when we had the chance looks pretty good in hind-sight, doesn’t it people?
The article talks about the funding gap between the closure of the shuttle project and Project Orion. The author pins the hope of American space flight in the hands of private enterprise.
I believe entrepreneurs will step up to the plate and answer the call. There’s money to be made out there and there’s plenty of people smart enough to figure out how to accomplish it.
The future of mankind depends on it.