Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Going Nowhere Fast

You may find this exciting: Europe and Russia are going to Mars!

The United States, on the other hand, is going nowhere fast.

Actually, the agreement signed between the EU and Russia is a cooperative venture to land probes on Mars and Phobos, one of its two moons. Not as exciting as a manned expedition, but the significance is who isn't invited to the party.

Once our once vaunted space shuttle fleet -- what's left of it, anyway -- is retired next year, there will be no American missions anywhere unless we catch a ride with the Russians on their Soyuz, the workhorse Model T of the space age. Our replacement vehicle, the Orion, won't be through testing and development until 2015, if then.

The Orion, by the way, looks like a shinier, fatter version of the Apollo spacecraft, and is just as aerodynamic. Back to the Future. Sigh.

A presidential panel appointed by President Obama has begun to discuss its findings:
US ambitions for manned space exploration have hit a major hurdle in the wake of severe budget constraints, according to preliminary findings of a panel appointed by President Barack Obama.

Reaching Mars was deemed too risky while returning to the Moon by 2020 was ruled out barring an additional three billion dollars per year to replace the retiring space shuttle fleet and build bigger rockets, according to the group led by Norm Augustine, a former CEO of US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.

"Really, we've given the White House a dilemma. The space program we have today, the human space flight program, really isn't executable with the money we have," Augustine told PBS public television last week.
NASA has an $18 billion annual budget, about $10 billion allocated to human spaceflight. It would take an additional $3 billion a year to put us back in the space driver's seat, but that's apparently just not going to happen with Team Obama in the White House.

That happens to be the very amount devoted to "Cash for Clunkers." Cosmic irony.

You come in and spend $1.5 trillion in money we don't have, and are pushing to spend at least another $1 trillion during the next decade on health care, but you can't see the need to add a single dime to the space budget?

Okay, fine. Each to his own. It's not everyone's cup of tea. But don't then turn around and say this:
The White House could take months to decide its course of action, said John Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.

"We have inherited one of the many failed promises of the Bush administration -- to set out a very good program without providing the resources to fund it," he told AFP, urging a new direction.

"We have lived an illusion for five years."

The US space shuttle program and the ISS, he said, "were a mistake" when compared to the Apollo Project that landed man on the moon for the first time.
Logsdon seems under the impression that Bush was responsible for the space shuttle program and the International Space Station, when the shuttle dates back to the '70s and the ISS was designed in the '90s. Or does he just enjoy putting political spin on a subject of which he is supposed to be an expert?

It is a matter of faith, not science, for the Progressive Left, that all problems identified in 2009 are of necessity the fault of George W. Bush, the locus of evil in our American universe. I'm not saying that Mr. Logsdon is a crap-weasel; I'm only saying he sounds like one.

Apollo was a great project because it was a Big Dream that required ambition, courage and commitment. The shuttle was a great project because it was a Big Dream from an engineering point of view. It represented progress and it made the International Space Station possible. But the time for both Apollo and the Shuttle have come and gone.

The real deficit in this country, today, is a paucity of vision and courage, and a reluctance to "get the hell out of the way" and let the private sector take over if the government won't lead.

It's obvious Team Obama has no enthusiasm for space ventures. There's so much work to do here organizing our communities into little socialist collectives, engineering the government's takeover of auto companies, banks, investment firms, insurance companies and the health care industry. Everything, in fact, that Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt did not accomplish; nearly a century's worth of unfulfilled socialist dreams.

Who needs Mars when you have Marx?

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