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Author Topic: The End of the US Space Program
xaxnar
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Icon 2 posted January 17, 2004 11:33      Profile for xaxnar     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Okay, before going into the Rant, first a Rave - and some free stuff. Prometheus Music has a new CD of music celebrating space travel. Better yet, 5 of the tracks are available as free downloads. If you're a true believer in space travel, you have to check this out.

Now for the Rant. Taking a look at the scant details of President Bush's proposals for NASA and the US Space Program, I can only conclude his real goal is to kill it off in the long term while getting maximum PR spin in the short term for the election. He's calling for a return to the moon, building a base there, and going to Mars. Bush is trying to pose as though this is something he wants in the worst way - and that's exactly how it will be executed.

Let's look at it . He's calling for NASA to spend 12 billion on it in the next 5 years - but only 1 billion of that is 'new' money. The other 11 billion will come from cutting current NASA programs - and NASA has been on a starvation diet for years. There's no fat to cut; the Columbia crew died because NASA has been in denial for years over how bad things really are.

Already the first casualty has been announced: the Hubble Space Telescope. A shuttle mission to upgrade instruments and replace the original batteries has been canceled. The batteries could fail at any time, and the Hubble will eventually fall out of orbit - if NASA doesn't deliberately bring it down first. And, the final mission to bring it back to put it in the Smithsonian has been canceled.

Why? Bush's plan to use the shuttle fleet only to 'finish' the space station by 2010 and then ground it means NASA has neither the time nor the money to spend on the Shuttle to allow it to fliy safely to the Hubble. (In fact there's a way around those safety issues, but the clueless crew running NASA has overlooked it.)

The Hubble is only the first casualty. That 11 billion will be pulled from programs that have been underway for years, effectively throwing away that investment. 12 billion total is just a drop in the bucket for the ambitious plans Bush has announced. Over 5 years, it won't buy much more than some new NASA bureacrats, some preliminary studies, and some pretty art work. (Give it to Burt Rutan on the other hand, and [Big Grin] ) By the time the real work starts and the fight for the real funding needed gets started, Bush will be long gone from the White House.

People are already attacking plans on the cost issue, and not without reason. BUT, look at the context. Bush has no problem pulling 1.5 billion out his....hat.... for this year alone just to promote marriage. (Actually, it's US he's pulling it out of.) That pales in comparison to the 167 billion and counting Iraq has already sucked down. Or, count the cost in terms of the number of Enrons or Global Crossing coporate scandal losses to the economy. [Mad]

The point is, the money that goes to the space program is NOT shot off into space. It's spent on the ground, mostly in the US, and it creates high-paying jobs that draw the best and brightest. It inspires kids to study math and science - because they can see what it brings. The new technology created for the space program sparks a thousand other uses and new developments. The net result strengthens the US economy, and shows the rest of the world the US can do more than beat up on anybody who looks like a threat to us.

Put it another way. During the height of the Apollo program, the cost worked out to about a nickel a day per American - and the US was spending more on cosmetics!

After 2010 with the shuttle fleet grounded, we'll have to buy tickets to space from the Russians - or the Chinese. New US manned spacecraft won't be ready til about 2015 or so. There's no details about what they'll be like either, but my initial guess is that they'll be largely based on expendable booster technology.

That's great if you want a space program devoted to a select few, with expensive access to space controlled by the high NASA priesthood. (No more Dennis Titos, if NASA can help it.) On the other hand, if you want space flight for real people in numbers and costs which could make space commercial the way aviation is, you need a very different approach.

We need something that can be made completely reusable, that can be turned around quckly and flown again. That what was promised for the shuttle, but it never happened. Too many compromises. The shuttle was originally derided as a 'truck' that didn't go anywhere.

Well, it was never that great a truck, but Low Earth Orbit isn't exctaly nowhere. If the shuttle had been able to fly there weekly, LEO would look a hell of a lot different today. We'd have tons of infrastructure in space and hundreds of people, not just one bare bones space station. And a real, reliable space truck equivalent that could take us there today is still what we need. (Call it an SUV - Space Utility Vehicle, and Bush would have no trouble coming up with tax credits to pay for it. [Razz] ) Come up with an OTV - Orbital Transfer Vehicle - to move stuff into higher orbits, and it's downhill to the rest of the solar system.

[Big Grin]

I can only speculate about his motives. Bush has no interest in ideas or science. He never visited NASA once when he was governor of Texas, and he's never been to a single shuttle launch. Last year NASA was just 2 years away from flying the X38, a new vehicle that would have given the space station life boats large enough to make a full crew feasible. Bush's budget for NASA killed it. If Bush really gives a damn about the space program or the future in general, nothing he has ever done has shown it.

The simplest and most obvious goal is to promise anything to get past the November elections. If he's re-elected, he can't run again, so why would he care if his short term needs kill the space program in the long run. I won' get into all of the darker reasons why killing NASA might be exactly what he and his power base wants.

No, when you look at Bush's plans carefully - kill off NASA programs now, ground the shuttle fleet down the road with no replacement on hand, then promise vague big things in the future when the bills are coming due for all his other follies - it looks like a sure-fire plan to kill off the US space program.

Posts: 49 | From: North America, early 21st century | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Mercury_Blue
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Icon 1 posted January 17, 2004 13:12      Profile for Mercury_Blue     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well, then I sure do hope the government changes the direction things at NASA are moving, or China stops being communist before I'm out of college...
Posts: 215 | From: Radioactive Wastland of Tzi-lak | Registered: Jul 2003  |  IP: Logged
Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted January 17, 2004 15:04      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
MB: India also has a space program. There're also a democracy, and a nuclear power to boot. They even have issues with religious fanatics. It would be just like home. [Razz]
Posts: 7670 | From: the lab | Registered: Mar 2001  |  IP: Logged
schnurren
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Icon 1 posted January 18, 2004 03:18      Profile for schnurren     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
That is really awful about the Hubble. That telescope has been so useful for everybody. It seems inhumane to just let it break down or fall out of orbit.
Posts: 184 | From: PA | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged
Just_Jess_B

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Icon 1 posted January 18, 2004 08:52      Profile for Just_Jess_B   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
What you truly want, you'll do something about. Don't expect someone else to be more committed to something than you are. Otherwise it's unsolicited opinion...

just like mine. [Big Grin]

Jess

--------------------
Opinion is not Truth; that is why each has its own definition. Illiteracy sucks.

Posts: 1370 | From: Whaddya mean, Arizona? | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
sconzey
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Icon 1 posted January 18, 2004 13:41      Profile for sconzey     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Pfff. People are stupid.

<conspiracy>
Can you not see that George Bush is too stupid to be a ruler naturally? He therefore must be a puppet for somebody. Probably the Illuminati [Wink] They've been pretty quiet recently.
</conspiracy>

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"Violence is the last resort of the incompetent."
--Isaac Asimov

Posts: 490 | From: UK | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged
xaxnar
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Icon 1 posted January 18, 2004 14:44      Profile for xaxnar     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Re the W:

Ignorance may be bliss, but that's no reason to be proactive about it! [Roll Eyes]

Posts: 49 | From: North America, early 21st century | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Dr Psyclops
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Icon 1 posted January 21, 2004 18:23      Profile for Dr Psyclops         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
*raises arms*

Okay everybody! We're all going to start a space program in Madagascar!

Posts: 132 | From: Escaped into the waves... | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
Beth
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Icon 1 posted January 21, 2004 19:54      Profile for Beth   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Madagascar? Yes! [Big Grin] ROADTRIP!!!.... of course, I'll have to make sure there are a couple of life jackets in the car. [Wink]

--------------------
"What are those Earth creatures called? Feathers, long bill, webbed feet .. go 'quack'...cats! I'm being nibbled to death by cats."

Posts: 88 | From: Winterpeg, Canada | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Jace Raven

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Icon 1 posted January 21, 2004 22:37      Profile for Jace Raven         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
*Raises Arm*
Der Fuher!
Der Fuher!
Alle begrüßen das madasgar Platz Programm!!

(translation)
The leader!
The Leader!

All hail the madasgar space program!!

Posts: 1791 | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
xaxnar
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Icon 1 posted January 23, 2004 15:44      Profile for xaxnar     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Just got the CD "To Touch the Stars" today. Well worth the price too. Highly recommend it - if you can stand the contrast between the sentiments on the Album and the 'real' world.

"Dog on the Moon" is too damn close to reality, as is "I Want to go to Mars." "Hope Eyrie" - does anyone out there get it? Bush doesn't - but neither do those who would replace him.

It's so weird. Once it looked like the space program would move Space out of SF and into the Travel section of book stores. Now it looks more and more as though it will become a subset of Fantasy.

I've lived long enough to have seen decades of broken promises from the politicians. Concorde is gone - and they never built a next generation SST. One day the Shuttles will no longer fly. Will there be anything to replace them? Civilizations don't fall overnight, but there is such a thing as a tipping point, where fear of losing what is trades away the future that might be.

If the dinosaurs had had a space program, they might still be around today. Where are the Pharoahs of ancient Egypt now? The Mayans or the Incas? What of the China whose ships nearly sailed round Africa to reach Europe? So close.....

It's all of a piece. The few at the top are playing a zero sum game, concentrating wealth and power at the top, impoverishing the middle, and growing the bottom.

Posts: 49 | From: North America, early 21st century | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged


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