If We Don’t Speak Up Now NASA Will Fade Away

Posted by Michael Pinto on Aug 2, 2010 in Science |

Last Shuttle External Tank Arrives at Kennedy

What you’re looking at above may be the beginning of the end of a manned space exploration program for the United States — what you see is the last shuttle external tank arriving at Kennedy Space Center. That’s right! There’s only one more shuttle launch left and after that NASA will be out sourcing to Russia until we have a “replacement”. I’ve placed quotes around the word replacement as there is currently no replacement being worked on. And why is this?

George H. W. Bush

The last President who seemed to do anything about the space program was Bush — no not the guy who left office in 2008 but George Bush, Sr. who really made the International Space Station happen. Clinton didn’t harm NASA but he really didn’t help it which pretty much amounts to neglect. Bush Jr. made plans for a shuttle replacement, but that program went way over budget and took too much time. It took so much time that there wasn’t much to show for it when the Obama administration took office in January of 2009.

While many on the right may paint President Obama as a “big government socialist” what he in fact did was to take a page straight out of the Reagan/Thatcher playbook: The administration proposed that the replacement for the shuttle be created by the private sector instead of the design being driven by NASA. The thinking is that this could help give a boost to the nascent manned space industry — and to be fair that how commercial aviation works, and that’s also how the satellite industry works as well.

The privatization of getting into space

But there were two tiny catches: First this would cost jobs at NASA, but secondly building a shuttle replacement still requires a serious investment to the tune of $19 billion dollars. So now both the Senate and the House are bickering over the plan. Not only are they trying to prevent the privatization of the shuttle replacement development, but they’re also trying to destroy the budget.

The result of this can be catastrophic: Right now we’re depending upon the Russian space program, but as the war in Georgia showed things can change quickly in international relations. Add to that the fact that the International Space Station is aging poorly — in fact there were malfunctions in the cooling system just yesterday. We could find ourselves in a situation where you find yourself in the perfect storm where something happens to the ISS and we have no way to get there.

So if you call yourself a NASA fanboy (or fangurl) I’d urge you to start following what’s going on and to get involved. It doesn’t take much time to shoot off an email to your Senator or congressional rep and it can make a huge difference.

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