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Obama’s Space Plan: One Very Small Step

by @ 5:48 pm on April 15, 2010. Filed under Barack Obama, Politicos & Pundits, Politics, Science, Space Exploration

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:

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8 Responses to “Obama’s Space Plan: One Very Small Step”

  1. The Fury says:

    You and I agree on a whole lot of things. Almost all the time.

    This is not one of those times.

    I wont get too much into it, because I’m that upset with the Obama administration right now. I see your point, but I just disagree that this is one of the wings that should be clipped.

  2. I love the idea of a big vision space program, I just don’t know that we have the money or the national will for it right now.

  3. Marvin says:

    What I find really ridiculous is that “fiscal conservatives” are now screaming and yelling about Obama not spending enough money… Seriously, no matter what he does these people will scream and yell. And it will always be complete BS.

  4. Vast Variety says:

    Hi Fury!!!

    NASA’s budget accounts for less than 1/2 of 1% of the total federal budget. Cutting it makes absolutely no sense. NASA’s total budget in 2008 was 17.3 Billion. That’s less than 1 billion dollars more than the total sum of the 9100+ pork barrel projects that congress members sent back to their home districts so that they could have something to brag about come election time. It’s just over half the cost of 1 Nimitz class Aircraft carrier.

    How much money did we throw at the banks and Wall Street in November of 2008?

    You want to cut government spending… start with cutting down on our bloated military and throwing money at wars that we should never have gotten into in the first place. We’ve spent 717 billion dollars in Iraq and 265 billion dollars in Afghanistan. How many rockets would that have bought for the Constellation program?

    I’m all in favor of investing in the commercialization of space travel. But they are years behind where NASA is at. It just boggles my mind that would intentionally put ourselves as a nation and our manned space program in a position where it would be forced to rely on the Russians. I bet Kennedy is rolling over in his grave right now.

  5. Vast Variety says:

    By the way, we are going to be paying the Russians $56 million dollars for every Astronaut we send up on one of their rockets.

  6. tfr says:

    Here’s a thought – sell all of NASA’s infrastructure to private industry. That way they’re not starting from scratch, we don’t lose the investment, and we get government out of the business.

    I dunno, Obama doesn’t seem to actually know what he’s talking about – send an astronaut to an asteroid? Why? Not really enough gravity to “land”, unless we’re talking about one of the big main-belt asteroids, in which case you might as well just go to Mars – it’s closer. Either way, it’s a long way off. We have no way of shielding astronauts from solar radiation for the months-long trip, for starters.

  7. Vast Variety says:

    You can’t just pack up Cape Kennedy and send to the Space port in New Mexico. As for shielding the astronauts from solar radiation for months on end, we do that all the time on the ISS.

    Again, if you want to cut Federal spending start with something that is going to make a real impact instead of something that is less than 1/2 of 1% of the budget.

  8. tfr says:

    Nope, the ISS is inside Earth’s magnetic field, and is mostly shielded by that. That’s the reason the vast majority of manned flights never orbit higher than, say 300-500 miles altitude. First you pass through the Van Allen radiation belts, then you get hit by the solar emissions.

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