Sunday, July 11, 2010

Space Disgrace

From WALTER CUNNINGHAM's editorial in the Houston Chronicle Here:
The $19 billion for 2011 is less than 0.5 percent of the proposed federal budget, one-ninth of what it was at its peak in the 1960s. The $300 million increase eliminates the program of human space exploration and sentences the agency to the same starvation diet it has existed on for the past several decades. NASA needs a $3 billion increase to continue operating a viable human space program.

NASA spin is touting “new technology development programs to expand the capabilities of future explorers”— in-orbit fuel depots, rendezvous and docking, closed-loop life support systems, heavy-lift research and development of new engines, propellants, materials and combustion processes. These may sound new to someone unfamiliar with what NASA has been doing for 50 years, but (with one exception) they are pursuits for which NASA already has an unmatched reputation. Each of these would have played an essential role in the now canceled Constellation program. Without the focus of a specific mission, the raison d'ĂȘtre for these technologies is now “to advance the field of space science.”

In the place of the canceled Ares and Orion hardware, we now have increased support for education, increased spending on the discredited global warming hypocrisy and subsidies to several new commercial rocket companies. And, oh yes, don't forget a new outreach program to Muslim countries without established space programs.

In canceling Constellation with nothing to take its place, the president is saying the U.S. should not have its own human space program and is directing funds to the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, or COTS. If NASA wants to participate in human spaceflight, it will have to be through contractors.

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