Monday, September 5, 2011

The ‘Undiscovered Country’ will have to remain undiscovered a little longer

As you probably already know, President Obama cut funding for NASA dramatically. NASA, for it’s part, has retired our aging Space Shuttle fleet saying it would replace them with safer, more efficient vehicles. Unfortunately that has not happened yet and we have been forced to hitch rides to the Space Station on Russian rockets (at $65 million a ticket). Well, that is certainly good for the economy –the Russian economy. Or it would have been, but now there appears to be a problem with the Russian rockets. One loaded with supplies for the Space Station fell out of the sky 5 minutes after launch and no one is sure why so they have grounded their program while they figure it out. That means the Space Station will likely have to be abandoned shortly. Oh well, they say it can be operated remotely until something breaks down.

This kind of thing just makes you feel good, doesn’t it? A program that has been in orbit doing vital research for over a decade at the cost of over $100 billion dollars -and we have to abandon it because we are no longer capable of even getting to it. That’s without the hit to 'National Pride' -having to beg a ride with the Russians in the first place. Well, never fear. The Chinese Space Program is advancing by leaps and bounds. They have already done Space Walks with their Astronauts. I am sure they’d be willing to sell us a ticket back to the Space Station in a couple of years.

I know, I know, money is tight and space exploration is expensive. We have more important priorities such as putting people back to work. That includes the tens of thousands of people that had to be laid off when we “interrupted” our Space Program. There were one hell of a lot of industries and companies involved in supporting and supplying that program. That does not even touch upon the research that came out of the program that we take for granted in our daily lives. Here is something that NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said:
“We see the transformative effects of the Space Economy all around us through numerous technologies and life-saving capabilities. We see the Space Economy in the lives saved when advanced breast cancer screening catches tumors in time for treatment, or when a heart defibrillator restores the proper rhythm of a patient’s heart….We see it when weather satellites warn us of coming hurricanes, or when satellites provide information critical to understanding our environment and the effects of climate change. We see it when we use an ATM or pay for gas at the pump with an immediate electronic response via satellite. Technologies developed for exploring space are being used to increase crop yields and to search for good fishing regions at sea.”
He is right –and now all that is drying up because we did not have the foresight to manage things better and we can not elect politicians with the intelligence and ability to fix things.

Despite all this, I remain optimistic. NASA will make a come back someday. Americans are just too hard working and innovative for this situation to last very long. Hell, I even believe we’ll figure out how to fix Washington someday (call me crazy)

I hope, though, NASA learns from all this and is a little less willing to just give the fruits of all that great research away. Just think about all the royalties on all those gadgets and formulas. I’ll bet that would have generated enough cash to have kept them going a few more years and saved us the embarrassment of having to thumb a ride from Putin in the first place….

Live Long and Prosper....

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