Wednesday, July 13, 2011
O Space Race, Space Race, wherefore art thou, Space Race?
Well, well, Mr. President, you must be very proud of yourself. With one swell foop of your pen you have single handedly obliterated over 10000 jobs and an entire industry. Said industry has been supporting Maned Spaceflight for over 50 years! Said industry has contributed greatly to our economy for over 50 years! Said industry has made multitudinous advances in science and engineering for over 50 years! Just to name a few, these advances include: computers, telecommunications, microwaves, fuel cells, solar energy, optics, etc. Of course, the exploration of the Moon and the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station go without saying (not to mention NASA TV's contributions to education).
I am a child of the Space Race. I grew up with Star Trek and Apollo. Make no mistake, the Star Trek TV series and the Apollo Missions to the Moon are akin. They were both about exploration, adventure and firing up the human imagination! Our esteemed President would have you believe that the Space Race is over - that there is nothing more to explore, there is no adventure. I say he's wrong! Now, more than ever, we need to build up our aerospace industry once again. China recently announced a mission to make a permanent colony on the Moon. Russia is currently the only country that can ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The European Union has also made several positive strides into space exploration. Japan also contributed to the ISS. Are we, the United States, one of the main pioneers of Maned Space Flight, to be left in the dust now?
After the Apollo Mission ended, my generation was all fired up and ready to build space stations and colonies on the Moon and Mars. Well, maybe a one-way maned mission to Mars would be easier. Anyway, whatever happened to that? The Space Race also fueled great successes in educating a generation of scientists and engineers making the USA the super power it is today. I think we could use a dose of that spark of imagination and work ethic in our students today! That was my generation, and those scientists and engineers now have nowhere to go as far as space exploration is concerned. The problem isn't that maned exploration is dead, its that we took a wrong turn somewhere along the way. For several decades now, we made the Space Shuttle our emphasis. We were trying to create a reusable space vehicle that would make space flight economical and routine. We failed miserably at making it economical, but we sure made it boring as hell! Kudos to all the astronauts that kept the dream alive and braved, in the immortal words of Gene Roddenbury, "The Final Frontier!" But, let's face it, not a lot of science or exploration was being done during all those many orbits above the Earth....
Mr. President, you say that you have ushered in a new era in Space Flight. You claim that the mission must change to robotic ships only. You say that funding must come from the private sector. You say that innovation and advances in engineering must also be provided by private corporations. I say, you are wrong again! It's too early to invoke the private sector. The space industry is still not mature enough to just let it fly on its own power in the private sector! Government's role in the space race may well have to diminish, but don't throw the baby out with the bath water! NASA has always played a leading role in the Space Race, so let it help our fledgling space industry in the private sector. Let's give our new space industry a little time to test out their fledgling wings.
I think its time to follow the words of that other great president, President Kennedy as quoted in the video above. Also, please take a look at this related blog from deFlipSide, http://deflipside.com/?p=3853
Well, that's my 2 cents for the week. I am now stepping off the soap box.