Will the United States fund future space projects?

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.

Original article

10 responses

  1. So far, the only private company that has met all of the criteria for COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Project) funding of 500 million dollars is SpaceX.

    Their site is here; http://www.spacex.com/updates.php#Update121007

    Pretty ambitious.

  2. Hi dad2059…

    I’m sorry to have to disagree with you. We wouldn’t even have a space unless the MIC had an interest in the developing the space program military complex related purposes.

    Many if not most of the missions are dedicated to black project research; ie., the growing of specialized crystals in a zero-g environment that allows them to achieve a purity not obtained on the earths surface. Spy satellites, nuke detonation detection, flash ignition of ICBM engines on lift-off etc.; and on and on this nonsense goes. For each measure there’s a countermeasure ad nauseam, ad infinitum…! It never ends as far as they are concerned regardless of the U.S. Treasury destroying result to this once great nation.

    Derivative civilian benefit, say what, “Space Blankets” that can be kept in your back pack or the trunk of your car for survival purposes?! Special insulating and fire-retardant foams…duh?!
    Ceramic tiles for your barbecue grill…?!

    No my friend, the “entire” space program is one big fxxking rip-off of the American tax-debt payer! I know!

    We have so many issues to address on earth, as I’ve ranted about in many of my postinga, one is clean power generation via solar energy for the entire planet. It’s doable…NOW!

    We need the massive repair of highway and public building infrastructure that was mostly built in the 50’s during the Eisenhower administration. Our roads and bridges, especially in the Mid-West to East are rotting due to road salt contamination.

    Our national school systems are rotten to the core, courtesy of the NEA and an incompetent, meddling Federal government. Their product; ie., a bunch dumbed-downed youngsters that can’t add a column of figures and not even use a hand-calculator competently…!?

    On and on my litany of sins against “we the people” could go, but the answer does not lie in space my friend.

    At this point in time it’s as if a bunch of folks in an economic “ghetto”; ie., the U.S. wants to spend big bucks, trillions on a RIF (reading is fundamental) program, or every vehicle in AmeriKa needs mandatory curb-feelers… :)) America has become an “idiocracy” for sure…! Btw, see the movie “Idiocracy” …it’s a hoot and will fill in the blanks concerning my rant.

    I rest my case.

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. I agree that the infrastructure has suffered greatly the past seven years of Bu$hco’s reign. That is not a space flight issue since it is under-funded too.

    Unless you’re talking about a secret space program as put forward by Hoagland and Bara in their book Dark Mission, your argument doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Sure the money could’ve been spent on making the world better instead of the space program, but that’s not what happened, did it?

    Your argument and solution would only work in a perfect world my friend.

    So would mine as a matter of fact.

    We are working against dark forces my friend. Some would say they’re supernatural, others say extraterrestrial. I heard a theory today that it’s our own descendants, one group especially who’s trying to game things in their favor!

    The only thing we can try to do Carl is fight the good fight the best we can.

    Then maybe we can make things the way they should be.

  4. With a staggering $9.4 trillion dollar debt ceiling, I think American exploration of space will go to private industry.

    How could it not?

  5. Right you are Christopher, because the government is broke!

    Bu$hco did it’s job well!

  6. dad2059, the bottom line is
    how many millionaires & billionaires are there in the US
    who want to travel into space, or who are fit for space travel

    Even if by 2020 you have as many in Europe, Russia, China & India
    recreational space travel will still only be an option for the super rich.

    And you can bet your bottom dollar that there are many places the rich and super rich would rather go than ‘outer space’ and there are many things the rich and super rich would rather do than travel space

    One thing is going on a world cruise, preferably on your own yacht or ocean liner, or buying your own island in the caribbean, or owning your own jet – but ‘most’ people, especially the rich and the super rich want to keep both feet firmly on the ground, and be able to communicate with the world at large, be on the news, and attend the latest party or event at whatever fashionable do in town.

    How many rich and super rich have paid to be confined in a nuclear sub for six months (and see the ocean deep)? – NONE.
    Just as few will pay to travel to deep space or beyond.

    The only thing that will make space travel and manned space flight within our solar system and beyond, is not the quest for profit, but the same spirit that drove Man to the Moon – government will, international cooperation, national pride and sense of achievement.

    Space flight will not emulate the history of flight on earth, cos there are no ‘exotic’ places to visit and fine hotels to stay in in deep space.

  7. Hi Quasar9…

    A nicely stated rebuttal to the idea that the bored, idle rich will somehow give the space program an adrenalin boost.

    The future of our space program lies in the perfection of AI (artificial intelligence) and sending robot probes to the outreaches of our system gathering as much data as possible. After about 10-20 years of continued, effective robot probes then maybe it will be time to invest in the expense of sending quite fragile humans to these distant frontiers. Data is data whether gathered through human tactile input and experience, or through highly sophisticated robot probes. The probes if successful are a plus, but a probelike mission depending on humans to operate the data-gathering mechanisms is questionable. Humans die very easily in a compromised vacuum of space environment etc. not including radiation, life-support system failure etc., up to and including psychological failure on the part of the biological operators.

    These robot probes also will give the impetus for us to increase our skills in robotics which will have spillover into industry etc. So there’s infinitely more benefit to developing robot probes than spending a fortune on supplying a habitable environment for humanoids onboard a spacecraft bound for some desolate region of the solar system to survive the mission.

    I rest my case.

    Carl Nemo **==

  8. Good rebuttals guys. First off, I don’t have a problem with AI precursor probes to scout the terrain. In fact, it would be smart. But human beings can perform on site judgements that aren’t subject to time delays (lightspeed communication) or take a chance that the AI is sophisticated enough to make an onsite judgement call (such as if a rock has a possible fossil in it). Besides, humans are curious, nosy critters. Did Cro-magnon man send in domesticated dogs before he claimed Neanderthal lands? He could’ve, but I don’t think so.

    And yes Q, we’ve had this discussion before. If we go by your premise, then we might as well concede the high ground to China, because we Americans are jaded, lazy and incurious. And our government reflects that (if it’s really a government). Even with the public pronouncements of Project Orion, I’ve heard through my more political blog friends that the next Democratic Administration will probably cut funding for that. So if America does anything concerning space travel, it will more than likely come from the private sector.

    I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to make money from it.

  9. Way cool Lubo!

    I hope it works!

    As long as you can keep the MIC out of it, it’ll be righteous! 😎

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