On September 30th, the House Approved NASA's $19 Billion budget for FY2011. As long as President Obama signs the Bill, the budget is set. This means the death of the Constellation Program. What's that you ask? It was a program put into action in 2004 to return Americans to the moon and then on to Mars. It also included designing and building new vehicles to reach the moon, and possibly to Mars as well, and new mobile launches at Cape Kennedy. The vehicles were to be totally new design, new computers, electronics, avionics and of course engines. This means a lot of testing, testing, and more testing.
So six years into the project, those in power see fit to kill it. All the costs already incurred just thrown away. To be correct, it's probably 60% of the investment thrown away as some of the equipment that was designed, built or tested to this date will possibly be used in the new NASA Mission set forth by the Obama Administration.
That is twice I mentioned Obama, I would like to point out I do so only because it is fact and there is no political bias in either direction as I am writing this article. Dems or Repubs, doesn't matter in regard to this article.
In doing research for this article, I found many different views on what NASA is, was and should be. They run the gambit from "total waste of money" to "give them a blank check". What's the correct logic here? It seems it should be simple and easy to figure out that without NASA's history of achievements in science and technology, this world would be more than a few decades behind where we are now.
If you are old enough to remember NASA in its hayday, during the Apollo Program, you may lean toward the blank check idea. On May 25th, 1961, after a successful Gemini Mission which saw the first American in space, Alan Shepard, President John F. Kennedy set forth possibly the most ambitious goal ever to NASA and that was to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade. NASA did, July 29th, 1969 Neil Armstrong set foot on another world becoming the first human being to do so.
Since the early 70s which saw the last of the moon landings and Apollo Missions, NASA has had a rough time in the public eye. Many outside factors have grabbed the attention of the American citizens. Very quickly we forgot what those times meant to the country, the people inside of NASA and to the entire World. Aside from the good feelings, there are many, many inventions and discoveries by NASA that we now use everyday that are direct descendants of the Space Race. There are roughly 1400 inventions that have been documented to come out of it. To name a few:
Improved Pace Makers, invisible braces, protective paint, scratch resistant lenses, memory foam, cordless tools and freeze-dried foods to name just a few.
Of the 1400, many were needed and developed to get to the moon.
Back to the budget and new mission outlined by the Obama Administration. This mission places more funding and directive to the private sector to get back to space, the moon, and beyond. While NASA will remain the focal point in deep space exploration, the public sector will now hold the keys to the vehicles that travel to low earth orbit and the moon.
While many people feel this is a great direction to go as it will save billions, trillions in tax payer dollars because we all know how the government is a huge vacuüm when it comes to spending, the problem is we are now going to spend money on developing technology to do something we already can do. NASA has been to the moon, and now has also redesigned the vehicles and systems to return to the moon. The private sector has never been to the moon, they have never built a space station, launched it, assembled it and inhabited it. So why are we taking 20 steps back and thinking this is going to save anyone any money? It's beyond me why this is supposed to work.
In addition to the "reinvent the space wheel" method above, it's important to note that NASA during the Apollo program, had contractors in every state in the United States. Yes, some states had more of the NASA money than others, but the fact is they all shared in the funding. How is the private sector able to undertake something as large as a moon program? It just isn't possible now, and isn't forseeable. Building a spacecraft is not the same as building an airplane. There are risks to both, but space travel will always hold far greater risks than air travel.
If we want to cut spending and tighten the belts, fix the loop holes in the existing NASA contract structure, do not kill programs and turn them into private run companies when the companies have zero experience in doing the job.
I would love to fly a jumbo jet, but I doubt anyone would let me without training, why are we turning a once great achievement for the United States into something anyone should be able to do? Sometimes, there is reason someone can't do something. It's called knowledge, experience, desire. The public sector has none of these when it comes to space travel.
What should be the new mission of NASA is to make changes to their current contracts and bidding system, revamp the way contracts are bid on and how contractors make money off of NASA. Encourage joint efforts with private sector space flight companies having them become partners with NASA while not duplicating roles. In time this will create a space industry that is competitive and reliable. Having to choose one way or the other as is now our space program, is a recipe for disaster.
***I would like to ask that if you comment, please do not comment on whether we should be spending money on space exploration at all, that is a future article that someone will write. This is about the funding of space flight, not the debate whether to fund space flight. Thank you.****
NASA's new mission: Building ties to Muslim world
Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/NASA_s-new-mission_-Building-ties-to-Muslim-world-97817909.html#ixzz11ZGgVD56
Former Goddard chief: NASA's plan underfunded DailyPress.com: http://www.dailypress.com/news/hampton/dp-nws-nasa-langley-20101005,0,5840820.story
NASA.gov - Vision of Space Exploration 2004: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/55583main_vision_space_exploration2.pdf