Sunday, July 18, 2010

Space, Uninterrupted

Share and C-Span reported on how the Senate panel on Commerce, Science and Transportation passed a new blueprint for NASA, one that attempts to hold on to the leadership title in space science, continue development of heavy launch vehicles to avoid job losses in the rocket industry, and shaped guidelines for the next ten years of space policy.

You know where I haven't seen any mention of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010? CNN. HLN. Fox. MSNBC. And I watch all of these channels at the gym daily. Granted, I am not there all day long –- I merely watch the morning loop for a couple of hours while running, jumping, lifting and/or stretching... but I don't think I've missed the spots detailing the next era of who will rule the world in terms of defense, science and frontiers.


I almost blogged about this on Friday when I first saw it, but instead allowed it to ferment in my brain, because I have yet to form any kind of staunch opinion as to whether this will be any more successful than the last decade of efforts.

But... bipartisan? And... unanimous approval? Not a single dissenting vote. Wow. Shows they can work together when they so genuinely desire.

At a particular online discussion forum, there is an anti-space ruffian who likes telling "space junkies" to "stop living in the past! Space is a waste!" He revels in any NASA setbacks, and says the space program gave the world nothing but "gizmos and rocks." Recently, he blasted Pat Buchanan [on The McLaughlin Group] for criticizing Obama's cuts to the space program -– right after complaining about too much government spending.

Interesting. You'd think that how Democrats and Republicans have come together on the issues of space exploration would speak volumes... but that's not enough for some people, who still follow the "We have more important issues here on Earth!" banner. True, we do. Famine, disease, poverty –- we all know the list, it's as old as culture itself. While simultaneously providing hundreds upon thousands of jobs and spawning entire industries, space exploration has addressed and benefited these ongoing issues, not ignored them or picked pennies from their pockets. But there is really no sense explaining it to people who cannot see overall inter-connectedness (particularly when it comes to the Department of Defense).

The current bill claims to support an "overall growth in science, aeronautics, and space technology and define a long-term goal for human space flight to expand a permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit." Again, throwing around The B Word in terms of costs, but as Senator David Vitter put it during their panels' press conference, "Sometimes the divide between authorizers and appropriators is bigger than the party divide, but there is no divide here."

Forgive me if I watch videos that most people would consider a cure for insomnia, but I actually do care whether or not Earthlings commit themselves to scientific endeavours – and I must say, Senators Rockefeller and Hutchinson make a pretty good team in front of the cameras. Senator and former astronaut Bill Nelson answered some of the tougher questions from the press, and while Senator Hatch admitted it was not a 100% solution, he gave specific details on space launch system requirements.

For those of you not intimidated by homework (or you just have a half-hour to kill), the best write-up of the bill can be found over at SpaceRef's description of how the Measure Balances Commercial Space Investment and Robust Mission for NASA; pay particular attention to the wording and ramifications of sections 201, 304, 602, 701 and 906.

Exam TBA ;)


JLeonid said...

A unanimous vote is pretty impressive. I especially like the funding increases and the extended ISS support. Still, I worry about neglecting Space Science missions. And it will be fascinating to watch the Program-Formerly-Known-as-Constellation take shape. It's all good to me so long as Congress actually provides sustained robust funding like the experts and the President keep telling them to.

PillowNaut said...

Apparently the same worries keep us up at night, LOL... and the house is already cutting into the dollar signs, unsurprisingly. Late-breaking news, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan wrote a letter to Congress.

Think it will make any difference??

JLeonid said...

I think it's a really good letter. But with larger fiscal problems what they are, I think it will be a tough fight to maintain the funding increases when the bill is handed to legislators who don't have NASA centers or major contractors in their districts.
At least we'll continue to be what we need to be to stay paced with Russia! Ug.