Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Irony: while Obama administration pursues a larger role for government in health care...

... the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee under the White House Office of Science and Technology has issued an executive summary of its upcoming report on NASA's future that calls for privatizing portions of the space program:

"Commercial services to deliver crew to low-Earth orbit are within reach," the panel wrote. "While this presents some risk, it could provide an earlier capability at lower initial and life cycle costs than government could achieve. A new competition with adequate incentives should be open to all U.S. aerospace companies. This would allow NASA to focus on more challenging roles, including human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, based on the continued development of the current or modified Orion spacecraft."

What I find most interesting about this all is that in an era

--when we can blithely dump over $74 billion into two failing auto companies with little or no expectation of getting all our money back--

--when we can spend hundreds of billions on stimulus money at the drop of a hat--

--when we can spend tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of American lives in two wars that most people don't really understand--

We can simply turn our back on basic research and manned spaceflight:

The Office of Management and Budget extended cuts initiated in NASA's fiscal 2009 budget, lopping more than $3 billion from NASA's long-range budget projections--money needed for development of the Ares 5 heavy lifter--last spring....

We used to look up.


Miko said...

"A new competition with adequate incentives should be open to all U.S. aerospace companies."

Who wants to bet this came about primarily as a result of lobbying by U.S. aerospace companies?

tom said...

Yeah, chances are good that the aerospace companies are trying to lobby themselves into a position to get even more welfare money.

On the other hand, if various governments and the UN hadn't claimed a monopoly over space exploration & exploitation, we would have cities at the L5 points and on the moon by now with regular passenger & cargo flights back & forth. We would probably have beanstalks. And we'd be mining the asteroid belt and exploring the rest of the system. And by placing factories in orbit above the atmosphere we would have gone a long way toward mitigating our energy & pollution problems.