Feb 2, 2010

The Short Term end of Deep Space Travel

After our blog yesterday discussing the cancellation of the Constellation program for America to return to the moon, we find this short editorial from the FT. com Lex section(The Eagle is Grounded 2-2-10) and sadly feel it is indicative of the way much of America feels about space.

America’s budget deficits are headed to the moon so Americans, it seems, are not. In what counts as a step towards austerity, the $3,800bn budget Barack Obama unveiled on Monday would eliminate a new lunar exploration programme initiated by the last administration in order to tame a record $1,600bn deficit.

Sending men into space was always more about burnishing America’s reputation than getting the most celestial bang for the buck, particularly during the cold war. Being not only the first but still the only country to send men to the moon more than made up for the Soviet Union’s first-mover advantage with Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin. But just as the notion of a space race with a now-collapsed superpower seems quaint, so is the idea that the US can afford such extravagances. Re-deploying these sums could finance several commercially and scientifically useful space programmes, probably with spare change left over. More than 40 years after Neil Armstrong’s historic step, the US no longer has the burning need to prove itself nor the financial wherewithal to write a cheque for $200bn, the cost in today’s money of the Apollo programme.

The first 12 men on the moon were astronauts and, though there is no danger of the 13th being a cosmonaut, he will probably be a taikonaut – a Chinese spaceman. Experts see this happening by 2022 or sooner. Whether it is a good use of cash for a still-poor country is debatable, but it is their money and, if the US expanded its deficit to fulfil new space ambitions, it would still be their money. America should let its largest creditor have the fun and foot the bill, ignoring howls of protest from space buffs and politicians from affected states. Call it one small step for fiscal sanity.

We feel space travel is not about American bravado but more about an investigation of the science of where we live by seeing what's it's like elsewhere. The American Defense(really Offense) Dept is about American bravado and sucks up badly needed funding in the guise of protecting us from science that really would protect us. Whichever country controls space will control the Earth and we have opened the door wide open for China to control space.
Sadly Americans are too wrapped in their own small world to see this?

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