Say what you mean and mean what you say!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Now What?

With no manned space program,
what will future space kids in
America look to for inspiration?
With President Obama's effective death sentence on any future American manned space launch platform I, like many others, am given to wonder abouth the future of Americans in space.  Are we to be paying passengers of Russia's Energia company for the remaining life of the ISS (international space station)?

Although I do fear a loss in the technological edge for America I also see this as a narrow opportunity.  Currently there are several private companies funding low cost spaceflight.  Space X's Falcon rocket, Virgin Galactic's suborbital tour ship and Armadillo Aerospace are showing progress as long as the money keeps flowing but only one of these is a truly American project.  Others are in the works but these three seem to be leading the pack.

But my real sense of loss is for the young stargazers.  I grew up in the era of Apollo and watched the moon walks on TV.  Later generations had the Shuttle (STS) to hang their collective nation pride on.  Many of us pursued aerospace careers with fantasies about being astronauts fueling our dreams.  Kids growing up now will have no such kindling to fire their imaginations.  Without a new crop 'space cadets', America will likely loose her grand place as a true spacefaring nation.  It could not happen at a worse time.  With regional hegemons like China just getting their programs ramped up and Russia selling seats to anyuone who needs lift, we have picked a curious time to just 'up and surrender' the lead.

As Vice -president Johnson once lamented, we may yet go to sleep by the light of a communist moon. All the 'been there, done that' bravado will not mean squat when China and Russia are busy dominating manned space and all we can do is toss up tourists on a 15 minute suborbital flight in a British owned thrill ride. If we as a nation allow this to happen, we deserve to look at the night sky and feel second rate.

The salvation, if it comes, will be at the hands of private business.  The up side of this is that they will be free of government meddling and will be able to go where they are needed.  The military will rise to whatever threat is presented by foreign dominance in manned space but we will need to make our civilian programs commercially viable.  Lunar exploration for Helium 3 is a personal favorite of mine (Helium 3 is used in clean fusion).  But it will still take truckloads of cash to make it happen.  If American industry has the sack to make it happen, then we may yet realize out rightful place as the world's leader in technology, space faring and clean energy.  It is our place, do you hear me OUR PLACE; OUR'S! We are holding it in our hands as I write this, unless we let it slip away.

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