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Taking a Break from the Space Race?

On April 15th, the President officially announced his plans for NASA and the biggest issue – one that has received a great deal of criticism – is his plan to scrap the Constellation program whose goal was to take man back to the Moon and beyond. Only the Orion shuttle survived the President’s axe, and its re-purposed as a space station escape vehicle.

In canceling this program, the President has shifted from NASA to the private sector the development of new technologies to lift man and heavy loads off of the surface of the Earth and into space. President Obama is putting money, an additional $6 billion, into NASA’s budget to help fund such efforts within the commercial space community.

Still, that the President is betting on the private sector in any fashion is something that I can’t buy. It’s not in his constitution. The same person that wants government to take over healthcare, control the financial sector, take over student loans, run the US automobile industry, can’t be the same person who believes the private sector is better suited to develop space technology – which has always been the realm of the government. I just don’t buy it.

Dr. Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University described this as a high risk move on the show – that betting on the private sector to deliver new technologies to support manned space exploration such as to Mars is a high risk investment that if it pays off, can bring great rewards. And putting money into NASA’s budget to help with this transition is a good step. Still, I don’t think the President will be willing or able to do what it takes to create a vibrant and profitable commercial sector for space exploration and manned space flight. Saying new technology development requires time and money is an understatement. It requires patience and long-term financial support, more than what even $6 billion will provide.

I sincerely hope the private sector can deliver because its important that our nation retains our lead in space exploration and space technology. Rather than take this high risk approach, I suggest a hedge – a compromise. The President should increase funding for private sector technology development, while maintaining the Constellation project, with an additional $3 billion in funding for the next two years. After two years, if the project is not meeting some accelerated goals, it can then be canceled. Essentially, split the $6 billion towards additional funding for Constellation and for the private sector.

This greater pressure stemming from a hard two year deadline may serve as positive motivation for NASA to achieve success. The additional two years will also give the private sector additional time to ramp up its own R&D and technology development capabilities.

Beyond this shift from NASA to the private sector for the development of heavy lift capability, the policy change indicates the President does not believe it is our nation’s strategic and national security interests to have, develop and maintain a technological advantage in space technology. At least he doesn’t seem to think so when it comes to manned space exploration.

This is simply a fundamental flaw in the President’s thinking. Technological advantage and technological superiority is a key driver of national, and economic, security. With this policy change, the President is simply giving our advantage away.

I wonder what the brother of the President’s champion would say if he knew Obama is risking the end of US manned exploration of space a short 50 years after he commanded and willed us to the Moon ahead of all mankind.


May 18, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. […] the rest of this great post here << Edmond student wins grand prize in tobacco-free […]

    Pingback by Taking a Break from the Space Race? « Technology Today… « News at | May 18, 2010 | Reply

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