Beyond the Cusp

April 21, 2012

Will You Visit the NASA Gravesite?

NASA transferred on Thursday space shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Discovery logged more time and miles in space than any other craft capable of attaining orbit and returning its occupants to Earth in the course of its 39 missions and more than 365 days in space. Director of the museum John Dailey stated, “Discovery has distinguished itself as the champion of America’s shuttle fleet. In its new home, it will shine as an American icon, educating and inspiring people of all ages for generations to come. The museum is committed to teaching and inspiring youngsters, so that they will climb the ladder of academic success and choose professions that will help America be competitive and successful in the world of tomorrow.” One has to wonder which would be a greater inspiration, Discovery sitting behind velvet ropes strung between brass stands or thundering off the launch pad carrying the next generation of astronauts to the International Space Station and possibly to take part in building the dreams beyond. Perhaps had we continued our manned space program we would build the first all American Space Double Wheel Station just like those made famous in so many futuristic films or taking the materials to an American Space Dock where future space going vessels are being built. For the foreseeable future, if one wishes to see the American space program they will need to go to the Air and Space Museum on the Mall in Washington DC and forget about the trip to Florida.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden also commented stating, “Today, while we look back at Discovery’s amazing legacy, I also want to look forward to what she and the shuttle fleet helped to make possible. As NASA transfers the shuttle orbiters to museums across the country, we are embarked on an exciting new space exploration journey.” His comments do beg a rather important and equally embarrassing question; exactly what exciting new space exploration journey is he referring to? A journey usually implies that the trip will include people and in 2010 President Obama quietly and with absolutely no fanfare cancelled the Constellation rocket and capsule program to take humans back into orbit and from there to the Moon. Since the last space shuttle mission and until somebody in the government gains a smidgen of foresight, the United States will be paying the now doubled price to Russia for our astronauts to hitch a ride to the International Space Station.

President Obama also cancelled the planned return trips to the Moon along with all plans to build a Moon Base claiming that we can leave such matters for private enterprise to address. How sorry will we be when we will need to pay the Russians to give us a ride to visit the Chinese Moon base which they are still intent on building, most likely with the money we pay them on our debt. President Obama also made reference to our landing on an asteroid sometime in the mid-2020s; of course it would need to wait for Obama to be long gone from office. We can also pretty much forget that idea of landing an American astronaut on Mars and even a distant plan to build a base on Mars as both of these missions relied on building the spacecraft and launching them from a Moon base. The reason President Obama gave for these decisions was that there was a far greater need to keep the funds here on Earth to help people rather than waste the funding on some distant dream. I had always thought dreaming of doing the impossible and then committing to doing it was an all-American trait.

But, is this excuse of saving all that funding to use here on Earth even close to the reality? Granted, when you think about billions of dollars, yes, with a ‘B’, it seems like a whole lot of money to most of us. I know I could live a very long time on just one billion dollars and NASA gets between three and five billion dollars a year. Wow, that should really pay for a lot of people here on Earth, right? Well, not so much. Despite the sound of the NASA budget, it makes up almost a whole one per cent of the budget. It actually averaged over the life of the entire space program approximately 0.75% of the budget. That means that for every $100.00 spent by the Federal Government, NASA actually gets a whole 75 cents, seventy-five whole pennies, until they do away with pennies, but that is for another day’s editorial. So, we now have set aside and saved $7,500.00 for every $1,000,000.00 spent. In real terms the NASA budget is a negligible portion of the Federal budget and could be increased 6.5 times over and would barely reach 5%, which is a small investment for both fulfilling the dreams of a nation and an avenue for research and development that likely will never be done at all until we come to our senses. If the Smithsonian Institute really wants to inspire children to become rocket scientists and the United States and her people also believe that would be a worthwhile investment, as I recall President Obama is very pro-investments by government, perhaps they might whisper into some of the power people who might have sufficient influence and suggest that an actual rocket launch and a real space program would be far more inspiring and effective for inspiring children to become rocket scientists. Anyways, where do these people think these inspired children will be employed once they become honest-to-goodness rocket scientists?

Beyond the Cusp

October 13, 2011

Obama and NASA Call to Hire New Astronauts

For reasons that escape this writer, President Obama has approved NASA to hire for a new class of astronauts. Since President Obama has taken the reigns over NASA, the Space Shuttle has been retired, something that actually made some sense. But the plans for a Moon base have been scrapped, definitive plans for a manned trip to Mars has been relegated to a mere phantom of a possibility, and the design and production of a new heavy-lift system has been relegated to the purview of private enterprise. The only part of the call for new astronauts to be trained by NASA is the date the classes are scheduled to begin, sometime in 2013. My bet is this class too will face cancellation should President Obama win reelection. Space does not appear to have much appeal or place in the President’s designs. President Obama, if pressed on the subject, would probably make the claim that in the current economic and fiscal atmosphere, he is saving the funds from NASA and applying them to more pressing requirements. I find such grandstanding to be both ridiculous and ignorant.

The first point that needs to be understood is all about appearances. I will bet that virtually every time any reporter, politician, expert, or any of those who believe that our space programs are simply a waste of funds, when speaking of the NASA budget use actual dollars, which has not been higher than $20 Billion in its history. Of course, when normal people hear a number like we can save billions of dollars that are currently being wasted in the NASA budget, this sounds great. But, let’s treat the NASA budget numbers as they treat those programs the politicians like and refer to the percentage of the budget consumed by NASA. I have asked people this question often as I think we invest too little on our space program, and the average guess when asked for a percentage has ranged from 10% to as high as 20%, and once in a while somebody will actually claim that it is merely 5% of the budget. My response is always the same, “If only.” Then I get to inform them that since 1975 the NASA budget has never exceeded 1% and that most years it is even lower at an average of about 0.75%; that’s right, a mere 3/4th of 1% of the budget. Another way of referring to it is as negligible. Yet, for reasons of picking on an easy target that will usually never get much resistance is the space program and since they get to say billions of dollars, it sounds like they are making a serious efforts.

So, now that we have traded the truth about the NASA budget and realize that they use the dollar amount as this is what they use when making something sound like it is lots of money, and when they wish to make some expenditure seem smaller, they will use the percentages, which these figures bears out. So, why has President Obama slashed the NASA budget and cancelled the plans for a Moon base and thus pretty much nixed any Mars manned program. President even went further and has made the number one mission for NASA to share efforts with the Muslim World. Perhaps it would be easiest to simply give you the truth from Mr. Bolden, President Obama’s pick to head NASA, who said: “When I became the NASA administrator, he [President Obama] charged me with three things. One, he wanted me to help reinspire children to want to get into science and math; he wanted me to expand our international relationships; and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.” There you have it, our space program is now centered to make the Muslim World feel it has accomplished great things while no longer seeking to do great things for America and Americans. Perhaps this is why the call for the next class of astronauts is not to be convened until 2013, after Inauguration Day I would bet. This is simply unacceptable and a disgrace to the United States and her people.

Beyond the Cusp

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