Corin Anderson (magellanic) wrote,
Corin Anderson

The US's new space plan

Bush's space plan: good or bad? I say: probably more bad than good. I'm always a fan of giving NASA money for space exploration, and that's a good point in the plan. But, the challenges the plan puts forth aren't backed up by any substantial monetary commitment, or so I've been led to believe, which makes them little more than cheerleading and far short of a true challenge for the space agency.

I'm also pretty disappointed that the next "great challenge" will be -- wait for it -- putting a human back on the moon. Hey, we've done that before - what's the great contribution to the human race this time? It'll be an engineering exercise to do it, no doubt, but, at least in theory, all the hard work has been done: we know that a Saturn V will push an Apollo capsule to the moon and it can get back again. The harder part is doing it again after 30 years idle time.

In high school I thought a lunar base would be a great idea: we could have an observatory, a launch facility for deep space exploration, lunar mining, etc. But, I'm a lot less convinced by these arguments these days. Hubble and Chandra do well in orbit around Earth and are way more convenient to reach should something need fixing. IIS could, in theory, be a launching point for deep space ex, or, we could just bite the bullet and have big rockets just to get the crew and cargo off Earth. It sorta beats the need to first ferry everything to the moon or LEO before the real journey. And, the lunar environment really isn't that much fun. No atmosphere, few useful minerals, no H2O -- it's a rough environment to live in.

I'm also disappointed that putting a human on Mars is still more than 20 years away. There are several plans already that would put a human on Mars in far fewer years and within a reasonable budget. Why wait? Far more interesting than a lunar base would be a Martian outpost, that's designed for reuse by more than one exploration crew. Mars could also be a stepping stone on farther missions -- much more usefully than Earth's moon would be.

So, anyway, I don't have my hopes set high with "the US's new space initiatives." I'm all for helping NASA out and expanding the whole human exploration thing, but I think a real breath-taking initiative would have targetted Mars in the next 10 - 12 years.
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