President Obama went to Cape Canaveral today to address workers there about the changes he is planning for American’s manned spaceflight program:
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — President Barack Obama predicted Thursday his new space exploration plans would lead American astronauts to Mars and back in his lifetime, a bold forecast relying on rockets and propulsion still to be imagined and built.
”I expect to be around to see it,” he said of pioneering U.S. trips, first to an asteroid and then on to Mars. He spoke near the historic Kennedy Space Center launch pads that sent the first men to the moon, a blunt rejoinder to critics, including several former astronauts, who contend his planned changes will instead deal a staggering blow to the nation’s manned space program.
”We want to leap into the future,” not continue on the same path as before, Obama said as he sought to reassure NASA workers that America’s space adventures would soar on despite the impending termination of space shuttle flights.
His prediction was reminiscent of President John F. Kennedy’s declaration in 1961, ”I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.” That goal was fulfilled in 1969.
Obama’s plan, though, has none of the vision or inspiration of Kennedy’s:
Obama did not predict a Mars landing soon. But he said that by 2025, the nation would have a new spacecraft ”designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space.”
”We’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history,” he said. ”By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow.”
Obama said he was ”100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future.” He outlined plans for federal spending to bring more private companies into space exploration following the soon-to-end space shuttle program.o
Involving private companies in space exploration is probably the best thing about Obama’s plan, but there’s also much to be concerned about for anyone who is a fan of America’s manned space flight program.
Under this plan, Americans will not return to space on American space craft for a decade or more. In the meantime, the Russians and the Chinese will continue developing their own manned programs. That is exactly what Neil Armstrong and some of his fellow astronauts addressed in their letter to Obama — there is a danger that by not staying in the game, we’re going to fall behind.
At the same time, though, I don’t think we really have a choice. We live in an era of trillion dollar deficits and a National Debt that is approaching $ 13 trillion. We simply cannot afford the kind of immediate investment that would lead to tangible results in anything shorter than the time period that Obama has laid out.
It’s sad really.
Here’s video of Obama’s speech: