In the Future, Tense

April 14, 2010

The End of Space as We Know It?

President Obama is spending part of Tax day giving a major address on the future of US space policy.

As you might guess from the fact that I keep writing space operas and have been married to a rocket scientist for the past twelve years, I am a space booster.  I truly believe space exploration is important.  And cool.  Really cool.  Wanna hear my theory about life on Europa?  No, seriously.  I’m betting we’ve got neighbors and…

Okay, okay.  The Europa thing can wait.

But in all seriousness, I do think beyond reasons of national pride that exploration of the solar system and beyond is important.  So, you might expect I was terribly upset when President Obama announced the Constellation program created by President Bush to build new rockets to take humans back to the Moon would be cut.

Actually, no.

The Constellation program was poorly-thought-out and drastically under-funded.  It was sprung on the professional space community pretty much without consultation or warning and had the net effect of suddenly moving money from useful research and tech development (such as brought us the Mars rovers) to a haphazard attempt to recreate the old Apollo program.  In short, it was, a lousy idea.  I’m actually glad it’s been cancelled.  Maybe now we can quit trying to re-do Apollo on a shoestring and get on with real work which will allow us to do basic space exploration and improve the technology that is going to take crewed missions further out than we’ve been yet.

That certainly seems to be the plan at NASA.  The following are highlights from details of the Workforce Breakdown under NASA’s 2011 Budget.  Here are just a few projects in the works:

(more…)

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