- Posted February 5, 2010 by
New York, New York
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Light Years: Your view of space and stars
Obama: Moon Misbegotten
What happened to the Geek-In-Chief? The man who grew up with the Apollo moon landings- going where no man has gone before? President Barack Obama’s 2011 Budget effectively ends man in space beyond low earth orbit for the foreseeable future by axing NASA’s return to the moon program, Constellation. The program was criticized by the Augustine Commission as being ‘unsustainable’ and not on target for being mission-ready by it’s 2020 deadline.
I agree with Michael Griffin, former administrator of NASA. You can say anything is unsustainable if you don’t fund it. Some numbers for you. Apollo in adjusted dollars, over a ten year period (’62 through ’72) cost 150 billion, or 15 billion a year. Constellation, costing 9 billion over 6 years, has cost about a 10th of that- 1.5 billion a year. I’m surprised they got as far as they did, in that there wasn’t a strong mandate to do so.
At any rate, the new NASA budget, pending approval, actually increases monies to the agency over last year to support a greater focus on solar system research, robotics, in-situ fuel manufacture, education and outreach. As far as manned space exploration, it extends the life of the ISS, and looks to private industry to develop the crew vehicles to get there (as we’ll not have a ride after the shuttle is mothballed). Elon Musk’s Space X Corp.’s Dragon vehicle is looking promising, but that won’t be ready until 2016 (maybe). In the meantime, we go a-begging to the Russians or maybe even the Chinese for a seat.
But it’s all earth orbit. What we’ve been doing for 40 years now, after our initial flirtation with the moon. We’ll have to see how far NASA’s new reliance on private industry will get us. We’ll pop-gun back into orbit surely, but my worry is that with no clear goals and objectives for man in space, and NASA not providing systems architecture and integration (what they are very good at), any attempt at having private industry organize multi-faceted manned exploration missions to the moon or beyond is improbable any time soon.