August(ine) and LEO

Though this posts title is a thinly-veiled reference to astrology (Leo being a star-sign related to people born in August, geddit?), I wanted to comment on US presidents decision to scrap the NASA Constellation programme to get man back to the Moon by 2020.

The essence of the report can be found (amongst others) at:-

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=nasa-budget-constellation-cancel

My opinion?
Being a fan of manned spaceflight, I’ve looked forward to the USA taking a lead in getting back to the Moon and onwards to Mars when the Constellation programme was originally announced in 2004. The chance to see man walking on the Moon and moving out into the solar system at last, after decades of pussying around in LEO (Low Earth Orbit). True I think the ISS is a fantastic achievement and following Mondays announcement it’s life will be extended. But at the same time, I’m massively dissappointed that yet again, the richest most powerful country in the world has backtracked on a commitment to go beyond low Earth orbit to the Moon and the wider solar system.

It seems to me this is a symptom of a lack of commitment on the presidents part in that because of changing priorities every few years, NASA will not get the funding it needs for the Ares and Orion programmes.

Funding for new technologies? This stuff doesn’t take five minutes to develop, or even four years, ie. The term of office for a US president. If there is going to be a change of direction in such a short period of time, we’ll never get off this ball of rock because there is no long term policy on space.

There is talk of involving the international community in human spaceflight, which if true would be fantastic, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Robot probes? In this new direction for NASA there will be more funding for robots to explore the solar system. As good as they are, a robot can never replace a human having that ability to assess first hand something new and undiscovered, with all a humans senses. As for risk, I think robots can complement, but should not replace humans and our innate will to explore.

I guess this isn’t going to be a popular view, considering a number of the blogs I follow on Twitter agree with the changes. In 2004, I really did think that we would be going back to the Moon. Now in 2010, I’m not sure we will ever do that in my lifetime, the human race will continue to to lose its thirst for exploration and drown itself in celebrity trivia.

I hope one day I’m proved wrong.

Posted by Wordmobi

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