Catching up with the future of the U.S. space program


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As I have been traveling for the past week, I have fallen behind in posting stories of interest. Two occurred in the past week that are of importance. Rather than give a long list of multiple links, here is a quick summary:

First, NASA administrator Charles Bolden yesterday announced the museum locations that will receive the retired shuttles. I find it very interesting that the Obama administration decided to snub Houston and flyover country for a California museum. In fact, all the shuttles seem to be going to strong Democratic strongholds. Does this suggest a bit of partisanship on this administration’s part? I don’t know. What I do know is that it illustrates again the politically tone-deaf nature of this administration, especially in choosing the fiftieth anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s spaceflight to make this sad announcement.

Second, the new budget deal (still pending) included NASA’s budget, with cuts. While requiring NASA to build a super-duper heavy-lift rocket (the program-formerly-called-Constellation) for less money and in less time than was previously allocated to Constellation, the budget also frees NASA from the rules requiring them to continue building Constellation. Since the Obama administration has no interest in building the super-duper heavy-lift rocket and has said it can’t be done, I expect they will use the elimination of this rule to slowdown work on the heavy-lift rocket. I expect that later budget negotiations will find this heavy-lift rocket an easy target for elimination, especially when it becomes obvious it is not going to get built.

The budget also included money for the commercial space subsidizes that the Obama administration wanted, though less than requested. I also expect that later budget negotiations will kill these funds, as they do not yet have a strong constituency to lobby for them, and Congress will be looking for ways to save money, faced as they are with horrible budget deficits.

The result, I think, will be exactly what Obama said he wanted during in the 2008 campaign, the end of funding for manned space exploration by the government.

Whether the private space industry can pick up the slack is the big question. I have faith that it can, as I also believe that freedom and competition always works better than centralized government-controlled operations. Unfortunately, even if I am completely right we are still faced with at least three to five years where the United States as a nation will be unable to launch anyone into space.

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4 comments

  • I, too, wondered about sending a Shuttle to California, but all six were built in Palmdale.

  • NASA will still be paying the Russians to launch humans into space.. and for all the payloads for the ISS that those humans will be tending.. does that not count as “funding for manned space exploration”? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually consider the current activities on the ISS to be “exploration”, but they’re clearly in the human spaceflight side of the NASA budget, and they’re not going away. In fact, all this administration has done is advocate for the continuation and “full utilization” of ISS.

  • Bennett

    “…exactly what Obama said he wanted during in the 2008 campaign, the end of funding for manned space exploration by the government.”

    Pitiful, that your embedded links fail to back up your assertions.

    Is there anything that you are happy about in your brief life?

  • Kelly Starks

    >>.. Whether the private space industry can pick up the slack is the big question. I have faith that it can,
    >> as I also believe that freedom and competition always works better than centralized government-controlled operations.

    Certainly true that prvate industry outside of government control is far more efficent – not surprizing since the WASTE is the primary goal.

    Competician however does NOT always lower costs. It does when the fixed costs are a fairly small share of per unit costs AND their is a large market to compete over. Neiather case is true in space. In cases like space where fixed costs domintae, competician increases prices, since each new player adds more fixed cost for the small market to carry.

    I really wish you’ld explain “..Whether the private space industry can pick up the slack ..”. Private industry isn’t going to do exploration – no way to make money at it, since theirs no market for the results.. Up until now they could sell products and services (like space shuttles and their maintenace and operation) to NASA who was doing things like exploration – but that markets gone now.

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