Saturday, February 27, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
I Stand Corrected
The budget actually has not been cut. There is a very slight increase. However, all the buzz has been about the results of the changes in how the money will be spent. The return to the moon is off. The Constellation program has already consumed $9 billion, has utilized existing technology and still wouldn't get us to the moon for nearly twenty more years.
The basic change is this. NASA will now spend it's budget on researching and developing new technologies. Low Earth orbit work will be done by the private sector and the international space station's life has been extended by five years.
Up to now, NASA has focused on a destination (sub-orbit flight, complete orbit, the Moon) and developed the technology to reach that destination. The new plan is to develop new technologies that, in the long run, can give us the potential to reach a variety of destinations. That's a good thing, because we need a propulsion system other than rockets to go deep. Rockets are just too fuel dependent. There are no gas stations on Mars or other planets, not to mention no atmosphere. So round trip missions are not going to happen with rockets.
This new budget is a major shift for NASA and many people will lack the vision to grasp it. But in the long run, this will make it much more likely that someday we will go deep into space.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Shuttle Off To Buffalo...and Beyond!
My wife and I are staying in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, for awhile, so we were in a good position to view the trail of the space shuttle as it lifted off yesterday.We stepped out on our beachfront deck at four in the morning to view it and were not disappointed.
With ignition, those massive engines lit up the area. I wouldn't say it turned night into day, but we were able to see a lot of people standing on the public beach watching the event.
The power of the engines is awesome. You can feel it. Our wooden building shook five minutes into the flight, like aftershocks. We could see the light from the solid rocket boosters as they fell away from the shuttle and into the ocean. Some lucky folks get to go fetch them from the sea to be used again. That's not a job I'd want.
I've loved the space program from the start, but Obama is doing the right thing by trimming the budget. It's time to privatize it. Let Sir Richard Branson and other deep, deep pockets provide the fuel. After all, people can't yell for budget cuts and then complain when they get one they don't like. The space program won't die, but just maybe privatizing it will bring about a sharp focus in prioritizing missions and minimizing the politics.
To infinity and beyond! Go for it, Buzz!