Monday, November 12, 2012

SPACE, Interrupted


Around the halfway mark of Obama's first term, the Senate panel on Commerce, Science & Transportation passed a blueprint for NASA that attempts to retain USA's leadership title in space science, continue development of launch vehicles to avoid job losses in the rocket industry, and shaped guidelines for the next decade of space policy.

This was the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, and it's a relief to know the writers and legislators who penned and passed it will not undergo any "re-tooling" under a new presidential administration.  This will continue to be our guideline.

Cute quip, but not accurate...

I'd really like to remind everyone that this initiative in 2010 was completely bipartisan.  Perhaps one of the precious few things that has gone un-debated in recent years. The NAA2010 passed with unanimous approval Not a single dissenting vote. Wow. Shows that Congress can work together when they so genuinely desire.

While we've seen wonderful results from this bill in both government initiatives (added Shuttle flights and extension of the ISS) and commercial (Leaps by SpaceX!) enterprise, we still run up against the "myth" that a break in MANNED spaceflight is equal to NASA's death rattle.

Not so.There are currently 80+ active space missions in our solar system... and while they are all largely robotic in nature, this isn't 1959 where we don't have space robots! People, we have robots!  That's a good thing!


Will we see a return to manned spaceflight?  Lofty ideas and budgets are suddenly being thrown around now that Obama's new term is imminent -- but even then, I still engage in Facebook discussions weekly where folks accuse exploration enthusiasts of "living in the past" or "supporting waste" because we publicly admire the space program on our social media platforms.

You'd think that Democrats and Republicans coming together on NASA would speak volumes... but that's not enough for some, 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, and consistent through every era.

While simultaneously providing hundreds upon thousands of jobs and spawning entire industries, space missions have benefited these ongoing issues, not picked pennies from their pockets. We must keep endeavouring to explain this to people who cannot see overall inter-connectedness.  For example: MORE people on Earth are FED now, because of space agencies, not in spite of them.

The bill supported "overall growth in science, aeronautics, and space technology and a long-term goal for human space flight to expand a permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit." 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."

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 ;)

Don't have time for all that? At least come back later this week, as I'll be detailing all the new moon base (and beyond) plans!