Wednesday, February 10, 2010

 

I Stand Corrected

In my last post, I talked about the perceived cut to the NASA budget. After reading an article in The Space Review, however, the picture became much clearer.

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.

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