Mittwoch, Januar 27, 2010

This Was To Be Expected...

I saw the first moon landing, of Apollo 11, in Eureka, California.

I remember the last one as well.

And now it appears that President Obama has decided that there are better things to do with the money, and that it's not worth doing.

Or is he?

In the news story - actually, it's probably something somebody said sounded like something good - there is a small glimmer of hope, one that I expect is being used to deflect dismay before, at a later date, the door is closed with a resounding slam: privatization of space.

However, this isn't being done for the reasons stated. Rather, it's being done because the President can't be bothered to make the commitment - never mind funding, the commitment is the key thing (or is it?) - to keep manned space flight up and going in the United States, just as the Russian, Chinese and even Indian space programs start to pick up.

On the one hand, it is a devastating indictment of the lack of vision from a President who ran on being a visionary: abandoning space in order to spend the money "here at home" is extraordinarily short-sighted, catering to that soulless and humorless cohort of the Democratic Party who has always claimed that the entire space program is a waste of money, better spent solving the problems we have here on Earth.

To quote:

...the White House will direct NASA to concentrate on Earth-science projects — principally, researching and monitoring climate change — and on a new technology research and development program ...

This is nothing less than saying "okay, we need space to prove that global warming is happening, but outside of that, we'll pretend to be researching, meaning that outside of a few million spent on that, effectively returning NASA to its earliest days designing airfoils and the like, we wind down the rest of the programs and turn off the lights.

Now, to scandalize my readers, consider this: it's an idea.

NASA has blown it, big time. They blew it with the Shuttle, they've blown it with the Ares follow-on project that should have flown by now, instead of being billions over budget and years late, they've blown it on so many levels that it really isn't funny any more.

As if it ever had been.

Let's take the President at his word, that he will allow private launch services to go commercial and that US needs will be met by these.


Let's shut NASA down. Entirely. All of it. That's $20bn saved. Give $5bn in prize money: $2bn for the first company to put 10 people on the moon for 30 days and bring them back safely; $1bn for the company that puts 1000 kilos into a stable geostationary orbit for less than $100/kilo launch costs with potential for mass-production and later man-rated transport services; $1bn for the company that puts 100 000 kilos into low earth orbit for less than $100/kilo launch costs; the final $1bn is for small-scale prizes for reducing costs and increasing energy efficiency.

Let all those aerospace engineers go. Fire them. They'll either find work with the new companies, or they won't. There is hope that the bureaucracy at NASA can be finally killed off. I'll believe it when I see the stake in the bones as they crumble to powder in the sun.

That's cash, straight, not subject to any taxation or other conditions.

The conditions?

None. Oh, sure, the usual down-range requirements so that no idiot sends up a rocket that lands in the middle of a major city because a $25 gasket failed. Outside of that: zilch. Let the pioneer spirit return, financed by crazy old men with stars in their eyes.

It worked for Heinlein.

And by no conditions, I mean no conditions: no UN saying that we should preserve the moon for all of humanity, hence no commercial exploitation. How many rockets does the UN have? Exactly.

And in the legislation that dissolves NASA, there should be the following clause:

Congress shall pass no law, nor shall any President issue a declaration, limiting or forbidding the commercial use of space, except for such rules developed by the FAA to ensure the orderly commercial exploitation of neath-Earth orbit and beyond.

That should really be a constitutional amendment, but let's not get greedy.

If this doesn't happen, then NASA will be maintained as a retirement home for the US aerospace industry, China, India and Russia will own the high ground, and ... all that money saved will be wasted on government programs that make the problems here on Earth, that "need to be solved", all that much more worse.

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