Michael Walch

Maybe a new NASA

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelwalch on 2 February, 2010

Obama is proposing scrapping the Constellation program in his budget for NASA.

Coverage at the New York Times – Billions for NASA, With a Push to Find New Ways into Space

It’s profoundly odd to think that the US will not have human spaceflight capability by the end of this year.  The last scheduled Shuttle launch is early September.  Oddly, this could re-create the space race of the 1960s – Russia will be the only country with the ability to launch humans to Low Earth Orbit, including the International Space Station.

It is definitely a step back in terms of NASA’s capabilities.  However, it is a possible rebirth and re-envisioning (really, a return to origins) of NASA’s role in aeronautics and space.  NASA is a laboratory of engineering and science – it commands a huge budget largely devoted to R&D, which then is transferred to industry.  Relieved of its operational duties, the new agency could rededicate itself to new frontiers of exploration and research, relying on technology transfer to private companies for the execution and especially marketability of space technology.  This already happens, from ‘spin-off’ products, materials, and methods to the award of contracts to (nominally) private companies like Lockheed and Boeing.

Perhaps this will create more room for people like Burt Ratan and Scaled Composites to innovate with government research money, and get closer to providing the broad public access to space.  On the other hand, the space industry is hugely important, both economically and politically, and thus far NASA has been one of the blanket agencies which help ensure that its exploration and utilization is carried out for the greater good.

Good-Night Moon.

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