Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Goodbye, Space Shuttle!

July 12, 2011

Orlando Sentinel correspondent Mark Matthews appeared solo this past January on Washington Journal, a call-in program on CSPAN, in a segment about NASA. I wrote about it on May 17. To see it, please do a find for "blog archive" in your browser and scroll down a little. Open up May. Click on: NASA: Gifts From Space. This time, CSPAN leveraged some needed expertise in calling in Scott Pace, an older and wiser gentleman, to appear with young Mr. Matthews. Mr. Pace is George Washington University's Space Policy Institute Director. Why a college might need a position such as this is way beyond me, but Mr. Pace provided plenty of respectability in the segment. Susan Swain, the host, began with a line mainly answered by the callers, and not the guests, "We're going to talk about what America gained from the Space Shuttle program…”

Mr. Matthews, the reporter, fed us some pessimism by revealing the Shuttle cost more and let us down in the safety department during its years, but he did tout the Hubble Telescope as a major achievement. There have been about a million other benefits from our space programs, such as metal alloys, smoke detectors, scratch-resistant lenses, pacemakers, and insulin pumps. I challenge you to google this, you may be surprised. Mr. Pace, the professor, educated by telling us that the Nixon Administration, where the Shuttle gained its initial support, made a mistake by concentrating on cost benefits rather than scientific gain. He therefore concluded that the Shuttle failed economically, but exceeded what it was asked to do in the technical sense.

I recall the hope and inspiration instilled in us through the space programs over my entire lifetime. Yet, both President Bush and our current president, Barack Obama, seemed content to terminate the Shuttle program by now (2010-2011). Perhaps it had already run its course. However, as early as 2004, President Bush revealed a bold vision for returning men to the moon by announcing the beginning of the Constellation program, the step beyond the Shuttle. (I’ll bet the mainstream media never told you that!) You can read his rather inspiring speech at this URL: http://history.nasa.gov/Bush SEP.htm Unfortunately, President Obama, in a fit of ignorance, and with a lack of insight, cancelled Constellation in favor of ‘investment’ in future research. This is consistent with his energy policy in some respects. Why drill for oil (an actual fuel), when you can do theoretical research instead?

In a later reconsideration, President Obama proposed we keep the Orion capsule from Constellation, but still proposed the program’s termination. To be fair, I’ll admit that Mr. Obama did commit to a new space vehicle by 2015, but his plan delays manned missions to other worlds by at least 20 years. In that time, where will our unemployed expertise go? Much of it will run away from the NASA space programs, for sure, and that’s a shame. In the mean time, Russia, and other countries, will lead the way in space for the foreseeable future. The current president seems to enjoy situations in which America is not leading. As a citizen of the U.S.A., I find that circumstance – at the very least - disappointing. It's expensive to push even an ounce of weight into space. When thinking about the final frontier, we should consider the past and future benefits of space exploration. It's always a natural result of the urgent need to miniaturize.


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Keywords: Conservatism, Conservative blog, Mark A. Cohen, From The Left to the Right, Mark Matthews, Scott Pace, NASA, Space Shuttle, President Obama, President Bush, Constellation Program

Keyword Phrases: "Conservatism”, “Conservative blog”, “Mark A. Cohen”, “From The Left to the Right”, "Mark Matthews”, “Scott Pace”, “NASA”, “Space Shuttle”, “President Obama”, “President Bush”, “Constellation Program"

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