Friday, July 8, 2011

The Last Space Shuttle

I'm having a hard morning. I'm excited, proud, angry and sad all at the same time. Today was a triumph for America, but the country was also diminished in a very public way. Today was historic. Today was the last Space Shuttle flight, STS-135. Atlantis is now safely in orbit set to rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday. I'm very proud of and thankful for all the astronauts, crew, contractors and anyone else that made the STS program a reality. You did a great job!

When Atlantis lands and is prepped for the museum The United States of America will have no ability to send a person into space. Think about that when your kids pose this question to you. Hey Mom/Dad when you were a kid did a man walk on the moon or was there really a Woman in space? After your answer the next question will be, How come we don't/can't do that now? You'll be forced to say, well Russia and China still can, but not the US. How are you going to feel about that? Are you going to explain that the US government has no business in space exploration? That space is the domain of the private sector? That there are a few companies now that own the only means of space travel?

When NASA goes to space, we all go to space. Every single American Citizen, not Lockheed Martin or Boeing or Rocketdyne or even just the Astronauts, All of us. Every inch of space NASA travels into we're right there along for the ride. You can call NASA a matter of national pride, or even a charitable organization or our gift to the world if you want to, I don't care, but it needs to be there. The progress of civilization and the future of mankind need it to be. Americans need it to be, especially now. The space program was always the one thing that no matter what kind of shape the country was in, or what your ideas of greatness are, you could take pride in as an American. We put a man on the moon, we have a reusable space vehicle, we discovered other galaxies. Now it's, we used to be able to do that stuff. Maybe it's my age and remnants of of the cold war mindset I grew up in, but I don't like that feeling.

You can dog NASA and its government funding all you want, but the simple fact is without NASA there would be no private sector space exploration. NASA's astronomical budget (pun intended) is a result of those same private sector contractors you're cheering for. I'm not saying there shouldn't be private sector space exploration. I'm all for it, but NASA needs to be in front of, or right there with them. There is hope, and a bit of a future. NASA has joined up with SpaceX A private company that's hell bent on space exploration and getting to Mars. They are currenly testing a manned space capsule that has sucessfully re-entered Earth's atmosphere. BTW without NASA's help they would still be sitting on the launch pad. The CEO is claiming Mars in 2020. I hope I'm here to see it even though it won't be the same. We'll have to see what happens. Sticking with the Ameican theme all I can say is, Ok Private Sector. You're up, let's see what you got kid.


The Foliage said...

(Old friend of Laura's here) I may not always agree with your blog, but this is a great post and a great soapbox moment.

Just wanted to voice my agreement and say "thanks for the post."

Old NFO said...

Good post, and a truly F'ed up situation... It's obvious since there is no handout plan for NASA to give money to the "poor" (dem voters), that money needed to be re-allocated where it would do some good... Space? who needs it??? Sigh... This is TRULY a sad day!

Mike W. said...

It is kinda messed up. You think of the MASSIVE amount of money the Feds are wasting right now, and of all the things they choose to cut it's NASA.

Yeah, don't stop stimulus spending, don't cut the budget for the Dept. of Agriculture or Education, let's just get rid of NASA. Sigh.

Chris said...

Thanks for the comments. NASA's budget isn't as expensive as everyone thinks it is, but hey it's space it must be expensive. Especially since all the arguing on capitol hill. I keep hearing huge numbers tossed around about budgets and cuts etc. and analyists and congressmen are acting like it's pocket change.

Ian Argent said...

NASA was a hand out program for democratic politicians. Look at where the primary sites are, and who was on office from those states at the time they were sited; and particularly who was speaker of the house...

Lets see what happens when Richard Branson starts selling tickets on Virgin Galactic, whose birds will be Made In The USA.

Chris said...

@Ian Argent so according to you and people that follow your argument line. NASA was nothing more than a handout. A way to line certain pockets in certain states. The agency never did any science, and never discovered anything. No technology even trickled out of the program to our everyday lives. Nothing good ever came from NASA the agency never furthered mankind and never benefited the USA. Is that it? Just payoffs and a budget hole to throw money in? I think you're very mistaken in your assumptions. If you knew the historic origin of NASA was actually in 1915 in an agency called NACA which helped aerospace progress and discovered technology that's probably in the car you drive, you may have a different perspective.

Virgin Galactic is doing some interesting work, but their main focus is sort of airline-ish. They are mainly focused on putting people in orbit as an amusement. SpaceX as I mentioned is more concerned with science, exploration, and profit. While Virgin Galactic may bring more attention to space, and their birds may in fact be made in the USA, but the money will go back to England and Sir Richard Branson. Your comment there is irrelevant. I could say they are providing the same type of welfare jobs going to CA that your claiming NASA has handed out over the years.

I welcome your comment. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I just think you should do more research on yours.

Ian Argent said...

I can't make a snarky comment about the politics of the (re)birth of a government agency? Columbus sailed for similar reasons as Apollo and Columbia flew. It was a hand-out program that did phenomenal things.

The "modern" NASA wouldn't have happened without it being a chance for some graft to go to politically-connected individuals, but no, that's not all it was. Are you going to tell me that political considerations didn't dog the manned space flight program from Mercury to STS 135, though?

I'm not a libertarian, and I personally think there was a role for the government to play in the development of space and industry. Just as there was a role for the government to play in the development of aviation (mail contracts, for example). Tam said it better than I can about "wasting" money on space flight.

But today, I'd rather the government bought space on a commercial launch for their needs. NASA did their level best to kill off the private space-flight entrepeneurs, because it would compete with the Shuttle program.

I mentioned Richard Branson and VG because they were at the front of my head for some reason; I didn't mean to slight SpaceX or any of the rest. I wish them all luck. Along with tourists and commercial lift, maybe they can get the government contract money that NASA won't.

Chris said...

I welcome snarky comments, but if I disagree prepare to defend them. :) I'm one of those people that can argue all day and not get mad about it.

Yes, all governments and businesses operate based on politics. There's graft and favors and unethical behavior everywhere. Until humans change that behavior we're kinda stuck with it.

I don't see money being wasted on space, sure there can be more efficient budgets, but NASA is one of the few agencies we actully see some results from. My point was I really don't care about the money. The budget isn't as big as everyone thinks it is, and it needs to be done. Lately all I hear about is budgets, cut this, raise that, yet not once have I heard anyone say anything about the biggest budget holes the US has to throw money in. The Military Industrial Complex and foreign aid. Not one mention on the news or radio about anyone even mentioning it. I find it to be laughable. Until someone gets serious about this stuff they can quit picking on NASA.