Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Implications are too dire to let that happen

Over at Cumudgeon's Corner, an e-mail conversation that says it all about the US Space Programme.

First from John Goff:
Ares-I and Ares-V are already mixes of politics and engineering. Do you honestly think that if it weren't for political pressures out of Florida, Utah, Texas, and Alabama, that NASA would've come up with a vehicle like that as the best approach? No, the cat's been out of the bag for a long time, and you've publicly admitted it before....

And in reply, the Cumudgeon himself, Mark Whittington says:
I'm an agnostic about what kind of rocket we us to return to the Moon. But I offer this caveat. The first person on the Moon is going to be the employee of some government. There is no market for going to the Moon that has enough benefit that would attract a private player able to pay the cost.

There is, however, a national security reason for going back to the Moon. That's because that government employee might just be an officer of the Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army. The implications of that are just too dire to let that happen.
With respect, he better get used to the idea, because unless there's a course change, that's not a possibility, it's an ironclad certainty.

From the AP :
President Barack Obama met Tuesday with a leading candidate to head NASA.

White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said Obama met with Charles Bolden, a former shuttle commander and retired Marine major general. Shapiro says they spoke about ideas for making NASA stronger, their commitment to space exploration and Bolden's ideas for the agency's future.

The administration isn't expected to announce a new NASA chief immediately
Hmmmm.... Bolden was widely tipped to be the next administrator. But maybe not. Not now. As NASAWatch reports :
At least two sources suggest that when Obama suggested to Bolden during their meeting that cuts to the human spaceflight budget might be needed later, Bolden said he would strongly counsel him not to. Otherwise, it was characterized as a pleasant conversation.
Maybe I'm being cynical.

US Rocket Scientists are some of the best in the world. I know, I've had the honour of working with some of them. If the object was to see the US Space programme actually do space research and development, we'd have in-orbit assembly stations and regular scheduled lunar resupply missions by now, at a fraction of the cost of current plans. I too am agnostic about the actual mechanism, but that's because there are so many ways of doing things, rather than so few.

But it's just more political theatre, pork distribution, and any space development is a desirable but ultimately dispensable side-effect. And the implications of that are truly dire - but not so dire that it won't continue to happen. Not even when the only language spoken on the Moon is Mandarin.


Christine said...

Perhaps "Firefly" was not so wrong in its vision of the future where the only languages spoken in the planet-hopping future of humanity were English and Mandarin. One for two isn't bad.

melissa1980 said...

Yes, and it is interesting how the musings of a now deceased fiction writer were, as to one installment, founded upon a Chinese/US race to Jupiter. Prophetic, yes? Two relatives of mine since retired from NASA and Lawrence Livermore lament the passing of the halcyon days of US primacy in matters celestial, hearkening to the Apollo accomplishments. Then, we do have a political way of overlooking the veritable economic treasure trove spawned by matters of space exploration. Gotta keep those eyes focused on home n'est ce pas?