Friday, January 29, 2010

"We just lost the moon."

Ares rocket test flight

This is a really sad day for space exploration.

A long time ago, one man threw down a gauntlet and challenged a nation to stretch itself further than many thought was even possible. He declared, boldly, that man could reach the stars and walk on the face of the moon, and that we could do it in less than ten years.

And, we did.

We went on to acheive the stuff of science-fiction, building a huge station in space, jetting around on tethers, sending explorative robots to other planets. We continued to dream, because we could, because we had been taught from the beginning that all we truly needed to do was set the goal and we would go about finding a way to achieve it. We would build new vehicles, stations, a moon base, go to Mars . . . anything was possible.

Then came the Augustine Commission. And the recession. And a President's sliding approval ratings. And, everyone stopped looking up.

The decision will be announced Monday that NASA will get an additional $5.9 billion  over the next five years, but it has to cut Constellation. No new Ares rockets, which NASA has been developing and testing for years. No new Orion capsules, designed like Apollo but made to fit eight astronauts instead of three. No moon base. No plan for Mars, which is made nearly impossible with the cutting of the Constellation program. We are instead asked to rely on commercial space programs, where we must trust the safety of something NASA didn't build or test, which we will essentially buy tickets on, turning our astronauts into passengers, in order to continue advancing the human endeavor of space exploration. We will extend the Space Station until 2020, but sacrifice our ability to venture any farther than our own orbit.

And what's worse, our children may learn to stop wishing for anything more.

We have descended from an age of intrepid explorers, brave men and women who risked their lives because they believed we could keep pushing out, further and further, and in discovering such alien landscapes would add indelibly to the human condition. Now, we are reduced to counting pennies and losing jobs and dreams, and that is a very sad thing indeed.


Anonymous said...

No, I did not see this, in the latest of NASA's problems with the government. How very, utterly sad this makes me...and furious. Coming from a family with a deep rooted history in the exploration of outer space, picking up that gauntlet and proving that we could do ALL those things and more...I, personally am ashamed of my government and it's short-sighted views on space exploration.
I am proud to be of the generation whose scientists reversed their focus from earth to the moon. I am proud to be the daughter of one of the men responsible for those first unmanned probes to the moon and to mars....proud that my father was one of those brave men who worked long hours, under codes of silence, designing and perfecting the Saturn rockets that sent our first men in space safely...proud that my father worked on the probe that gave us our first color pictures of Jupiter, proud that my father worked on experiments that went into space on the shuttle Enterrise.
Shame on the Augustine Commission for putting a sack over it's collective heads; destroying their view of the stars, the planets, the universe above us, yet to be explored....vast possiblites for mankind literally blown out of orbit. Who knows what we might have learned that could have saved this planet from it's greedy inhabitants...and fed it's hungry people, made green a barren desert, evaporated pollution, and cured so many incurable diseases.
This is not exactly a proud day to be an American.....especially for one whose very heritage, whose very birth was in the family of NASA.


Kimba said...

I wish I felt your sadness, but I think it's about time we stop believe in the stars and focus this country instead. I do NOT believe that children will ever stop believing in or lose the awe and wonder of the unknown that the skies hold if they do not have food in their bellies or a roof over their heads, they truly will have no dreams.

ThePeSla said...

Eisenhower remarked once we needed to fix problems of this world and space can wait and will still be there. But when? We should have been on Mars by now and fulfilled the early dreams of expectations we gave to the space age generation.

Maybe we can promise to lasso the moon and keep love a mystery. One small step maybe to begin the journey of a thousand years but nothing great was achieved like this without cost overruns.

"First you'll miss me then you'll kiss me. then we'll have no love at all- Never will true lovers be without that great white ball."