In discussions the last two days, managers for the space programs of Europe and China began laying the groundwork for a Chinese docking at ISS.
The United States, which paid for and built the bulk of ISS, has no way of getting its own astronauts to the station. The United States at present also has no way to bring cargo up to the station.
The result: We no longer own our own space station. Though the U.S. has strict laws on the books to prevent the transfer of technology to the Chinese, restricting communications by government officials with China, the Europeans do not. And since they can send cargo to ISS while we cannot, they feel free to negotiation with the Chinese for the use of our space station. Moreover, the Russians I am sure will heartily endorse these negotiations.
And what can the U.S. government do? Nothing.
Instead of focusing on a solution to this situation, the members of Congress tasked with supervising NASA want NASA to build a giant heavy-lift rocket (SLS) to use with the Orion capsule, neither of which is designed to go to ISS. Moreover, neither will be capable of flying humans into space until 2021, one year after ISS is presently scheduled to be shut down. Even then a single flight will cost billions, which makes this system useless for resupplying ISS.
And people wonder why I consider these elected officials stupid. And if they aren’t stupid, they surely are irresponsible and incompetent, at least when it comes to the American space program.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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