Do we need a new 'Space Race?'

The last American manned space flight for possibly many years will take place in June when the Shuttle makes its last launch to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

It was just 50 years ago this Tuesday - a blink of an eye in historical terms - that the Soviet Union beat America to the goal of putting a man in space. Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to go into orbit around the earth and come back safely - a feat that galvanized the American space program, urging it to greater efforts in seeking to win the ultimate race - man on the moon.

Does America need such lofty goals again in order to reach out and touch the stars?

AFP:

A successor for the 30-year-old shuttle program is not officially expected before 2015, but NASA's chief technologist has admitted it could be a decade before an American space capsule carries astronauts again.The next generation of US space flight will be led by the commercial sector, which has been encouraged by the US government to pursue the creation of new spacecraft and rockets, funded by private business and advised by NASA experts.

In addition to seeking a successor to the shuttles, first launched in 1981, the United States is also pondering the future of human space exploration.

Some are campaigning for Americans -- who were the first to walk on the Moon in 1969 -- to return there, while others are making a push for exploring Mars or an asteroid.

In fact, that is NASA's dilemma - lack of direction:

The United States is now not only facing astronomical budget deficits, but the Cold War rivalry with the Soviets has dissipated.

"Today, a lot of people say that the Chinese are the new rival and I don't think it's the same thing either," Garber said, calling the current US space strategy "very uncertain."

Logsdon agreed, noting that China's human space flight missions have been few and far between. The real challenge for the US space program is agreeing on a vision for the future.

As of now, the only point most in NASA can agree upon is that experimentation and exploration at the orbiting International Space Station will figure prominently in US space plans for the next decade.

"We do need more policy debate otherwise we are going to be sort of floundering," Garber said.

"Floundering" is an apt description of NASA for the past 40 years. There have only been short term goals, which has led us nowhere. The Shuttle was outdated even before it was first launched, taking 11 years from design to getting off the ground. The $100 billion space station (ISS) is a turkey that has never - and will never - fulfill its promise. The plans to go back to the moon have been scrapped, along with the heavy lift rocket and capsule crew vehicle that was supposed to be our next generation manned system. This, after spending $3 billion in taxpayer money.

The future of manned space flight is in the commercial exploitation of space. Tourism will get off the ground this year, but expect industry to start getting very serious about other aspects of manned space flight that could reap a bonanza. The moon will be mined for minerals, and other commercially viable products. Mining an asteroid for nickel will become extremely profitable. 

NASA spends around $2800 for every pound it puts into orbit. Once private businesses get that ridiculous number down into the low hundreds of dollars per pound, the sky will be the limit. NASA will be facilitating the growth of private space concerns, supplying launch facilities and expertise. But its days as being on the cutting edge of manned space flight are gone for good - much to the benefit of the US taxpayer.

The good thing about all of this is that we won't need another ruinously expensive space race to win the future. Americans are in the forefront of the commercial space industry and can be even more competitive if NASA would lend a bigger hand in getting these companies off the ground and making money. NASA's budget would not have to be increased to accomplish this - just a change in policy.

American ingenuity and know how will not be found in NASA's ossified, close minded bureaucracy, but in the dynamic risk taking and entrepreneurial spirit seen in America's private space companies.





The last American manned space flight for possibly many years will take place in June when the Shuttle makes its last launch to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

It was just 50 years ago this Tuesday - a blink of an eye in historical terms - that the Soviet Union beat America to the goal of putting a man in space. Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to go into orbit around the earth and come back safely - a feat that galvanized the American space program, urging it to greater efforts in seeking to win the ultimate race - man on the moon.

Does America need such lofty goals again in order to reach out and touch the stars?

AFP:

A successor for the 30-year-old shuttle program is not officially expected before 2015, but NASA's chief technologist has admitted it could be a decade before an American space capsule carries astronauts again.

The next generation of US space flight will be led by the commercial sector, which has been encouraged by the US government to pursue the creation of new spacecraft and rockets, funded by private business and advised by NASA experts.

In addition to seeking a successor to the shuttles, first launched in 1981, the United States is also pondering the future of human space exploration.

Some are campaigning for Americans -- who were the first to walk on the Moon in 1969 -- to return there, while others are making a push for exploring Mars or an asteroid.

In fact, that is NASA's dilemma - lack of direction:

The United States is now not only facing astronomical budget deficits, but the Cold War rivalry with the Soviets has dissipated.

"Today, a lot of people say that the Chinese are the new rival and I don't think it's the same thing either," Garber said, calling the current US space strategy "very uncertain."

Logsdon agreed, noting that China's human space flight missions have been few and far between. The real challenge for the US space program is agreeing on a vision for the future.

As of now, the only point most in NASA can agree upon is that experimentation and exploration at the orbiting International Space Station will figure prominently in US space plans for the next decade.

"We do need more policy debate otherwise we are going to be sort of floundering," Garber said.

"Floundering" is an apt description of NASA for the past 40 years. There have only been short term goals, which has led us nowhere. The Shuttle was outdated even before it was first launched, taking 11 years from design to getting off the ground. The $100 billion space station (ISS) is a turkey that has never - and will never - fulfill its promise. The plans to go back to the moon have been scrapped, along with the heavy lift rocket and capsule crew vehicle that was supposed to be our next generation manned system. This, after spending $3 billion in taxpayer money.

The future of manned space flight is in the commercial exploitation of space. Tourism will get off the ground this year, but expect industry to start getting very serious about other aspects of manned space flight that could reap a bonanza. The moon will be mined for minerals, and other commercially viable products. Mining an asteroid for nickel will become extremely profitable. 

NASA spends around $2800 for every pound it puts into orbit. Once private businesses get that ridiculous number down into the low hundreds of dollars per pound, the sky will be the limit. NASA will be facilitating the growth of private space concerns, supplying launch facilities and expertise. But its days as being on the cutting edge of manned space flight are gone for good - much to the benefit of the US taxpayer.

The good thing about all of this is that we won't need another ruinously expensive space race to win the future. Americans are in the forefront of the commercial space industry and can be even more competitive if NASA would lend a bigger hand in getting these companies off the ground and making money. NASA's budget would not have to be increased to accomplish this - just a change in policy.

American ingenuity and know how will not be found in NASA's ossified, close minded bureaucracy, but in the dynamic risk taking and entrepreneurial spirit seen in America's private space companies.





RECENT VIDEOS