The Final Frontier

I sat in a classroom in Weld Central School in Keensburg Colorado, and watch the first space shuttle lift off for the heavens on a graining color television.  Thinking that we will soon be exploring space the same way we started exploring ?the new world? in the 1600?s.  Besides, how cool would it be to ?Boldly go where no man has gone before.?

On Thursday, July 21, with the landing of the space shuttle Atlantis, after 135 missions and 30 years, the space shuttles will be retired.  The United States does not have a way to put a man into space, or into low orbit.

Now what?

For the time being, we will be relying on the Russians and commercial interests to ferry people and supplies to international space station.  To the best of my knowledge there are very few private transports to the International Space Station.  With some development, maybe this could be a future vacation hot spot?  Few people will want to go into space, and even fewer will be able to afford it.  That means the only repeat customers will be governments.  To help this along the Obama administration is giving private companies almost $6 billion to build their own rockets and ships.   Is the space program headed to same fate as Amtrak?

Before Apollo 11, President Nixon directed NASA to look at some kind of reusable space craft, which lead to the space shuttle, an experimental vehicle that turned in to a space truck.   At that time, we were planning, and coming up with new ways, and ideas, so when the Apollo missions ended, there was a new program getting started.  Did we drop the space exploration ball by not having another program ready to go?

Back in January, 2004 then President Bush, stated we should go back to the moon.  Establish a base then use that base as a launch site for ?deep? space exploration including mars.

To help that along we have the Google lunar ?X? Prize.  $30 million to the person or group who sends a probe to the moon snap a couple of pictures and send them back to earth. Right now there are 28 teams working to this goal.

President Obama nixed the idea of going back to the moon in April 2010

“We’ve been there before,” Obama said of the moon. “There’s a lot more of space to explore and a lot more to learn when we do.”

Read it here.

Instead of going to the moon we are going to an asteroid, then on to mars.

To be fair, president is right, we have been there, done that.  However, the last time we were there, we were tourists, got out looked around, picked up a few rocks (souvenirs) and hopped in our little space craft and headed home.

Going to an asteroid brings up all kinds of interesting engineering challenges.

But an asteroid, really?

8 Replies to “The Final Frontier”

  1. Spencer

    MC is right that science and politics mix like oil and water. Probably our biggest problem with NASA is that its mission has constantly changed in midstream from administration to administration; consequently, far less is accomplished for the same investment.

    I guess you could chalk me up as a conservative who would argue vigorously for the need of a vibrant and ambitious space program. Unfortunately, NASA does not do a very good job at marketing its importance to the general public and bringing in private investment. Maybe, NASA needs to start calling in on a few financial favors addressing its over 6,300 patents.

    Or, maybe NASA really needs to start scaring the crap out of people about the consequences of not knowing or caring about those things that are beyond Earth. I know that none of these events quite make the cut for our miniscule 100-year average models; so, some of us can breathe a huge sigh of relief, but one does not have to go back far in modern history to see the results of ignorance of space phenomena:

    1908: The Tunguska event flattens more than 800 square miles of Russian wilderness. When you are able to detect these objects years out, it would likely only take a gentle nudge to move such objects off a collision course with Earth.

    1859: The largest solar storm in modern history does not lead to decades in chaotic darkness solely on the chance that it occurs when an electric grid does not yet exist. Preventing this from ever happening to a modern society requires early detection, an understanding of solar cycles, and a controlled shutdown of vulnerable parts of the grid. Otherwise, you are at the whim of our very limited transformer production capacity assuming it still exists after such an event in the future.

    1816: A decreased period of solar output sets Earth up for a truly horrific volcanic winter and a year without a growing season in many temperate regions (sorry folks, NO corn in ND or SD this year). It is still referred to as 1800 and frozen to death.

    From an economical and technological standpoint, much of our technology, power generation, and power storage capability depend on the continued supply of rare earth metals. All of the recycling in the world isn’t going to change the limitations of those resources available to us just in Earth’s crust. Eventually, we will completely outgrow these resources.

    We can either try to be the king of our court and make attempts at understanding the universe that we live in, thus, reaping some means of control over our fate as a civilization, or we can relegate ourselves to being the universe?s perennial whipping boy through our ignorance. Ultimately, it really is our decision.

  2. Duh

    I think cancelling space program is on of Oblabla’s greatest blunders and there are many. I’m not talking about the romance of space travel but military issues. What if our taxi cab the Russians give us the finger or we get into another cold war? Then what? Military strategists have always said that ruling the seas wins wars. We’re in a different time now and space is probably the new seas. What if a country is able to sabotage our communication satelites or put a death star into space and we have no way to defend ourselves or remedy a situation?

    How about all of the aging satelites that everyone heard about several years ago. Without NASA, who will launch the new ones into orbit? I can see the Russians with their antiquated technology “helping” us out by putting nice little “bugs” in the vehicles to either take control of the satelite if need be or monitor our communications. Talk about hiring the fox to guard the hens. The what if’s are as expansive as space itself.

    To regulate ourselves to passenger status and renig on our claim and control of space could be cataclysmic. Why couldn’t the POTUS keep NASA at the ready without the expense of missions, i.e. put everything on standby in case we need it, not scrap everything all together?

    Stupid, Stupid President.

    1. MC Post author

      NASA isn’t closing up shop, just ‘right sizing’ a little. We can still launch unmanned satelites, and there are some missions still in works. Just smaller.

  3. Duh

    Below is a site that I was worried about. More worried that it came so soon. Russia has UNILATERALLY stated that they will deorbit the space station and allow it to fall into orbit around 2020. Since the US through its befuddled leadership of Oblabla has hung up their hat in leading space exploration, the Russians are doing whatever the hell they think they want…


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