President may soon revitalize US Space Program in response to China

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Durandal7, Dec 3, 2003.

  1. Durandal7 macrumors 68040

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    When President Bush delivers a speech recognizing the centenary of heavier-than-air-powered flight December 17, it is expected that he will proffer a bold vision of renewed space flight, with at its center a return to the moon, perhaps even establishment of a permanent presence there. If he does, it will mean that he has decided the United States should once again become a space-faring nation. For more than 30 years America's manned space program has limited itself to low Earth orbit; indeed, everyone under the age of 31 — more than 125 million Americans — was born since an American last set foot on the moon.

    _The speech will come at a time when events are converging to force some important decisions about the future of American efforts in space. China has put a man in orbit, plans a launch of three Sinonauts together, and has announced its own lunar program. The space shuttle is grounded, and its smaller sibling, the "orbital space plane," may not be built. The International Space Station, behind schedule, over budget, and of limited utility, has been scaled back post-Columbia.

    The content of the speech does not appear to be in doubt; the only question is timing. While those who have formulated it have argued that it be delivered on the anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first powered flight, there exists a slight possibility that it will instead be incorporated in the State of the Union address at the end of January. This has its own, less triumphant, significance, which is in the form of a chilling coincidence. Every American who has died in a spacecraft has done so within one calendar week: The Apollo 204 fire on January 27, 1967; the Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986; and the loss of Columbia on February 1, 2003.

    If the president goes ahead with the plan to announce an ambitious new program to carry Americans beyond Earth's immediate gravitational pull, he will argue that the new lunar explorations are justified not only for what they themselves might produce but also as a means of developing the technology and skills necessary for a mission to Mars, which is expected to be mentioned, though in less-specific terms, in the address.

    Observers might note a familiar ring to the proposal. On July 20, 1989, President George H. W. Bush marked the 20th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing with a speech at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington in which he called for a permanent American presence on the moon and, ultimately, a mission to Mars.

    That address led to the formation of a group called the "Space Exploration Initiative," headed by Vice President Quayle and NASA Administrator Richard Truly, which in the spring of 1991 released a report, "America at the Threshold." It set a long-term goal of landing Americans on Mars, with space activities in the interim leading up to that goal. First, it recommended, would be "Space Station Freedom" — now the ISS — followed by a return to the moon, in large measure to develop and test systems for keeping people alive on a Mars journey. The development of rocket boosters more powerful than the mighty Saturn V that lifted Apollo astronauts to the moon would be necessary, the report said, as would development of nuclear systems for providing power aboard in-transit spacecraft, and nuclear-powered rockets, to be employed outside Earth's atmosphere, where they could be used on long missions without the need to carry enormous supplies of conventional rocket propellant. None of the recommendations was carried out as envisioned at the time; the only one that got off the ground at all is the space station.

    The president's speech could breathe new life into a moribund space program whose recent history has been beset by disappointment and failure. The space shuttle proved neither as reliable or as inexpensive as its proponents had promised. In 18 years of flight (the shuttle was grounded for 30 months following the Challenger disaster, and has been grounded since the loss of Columbia February 1), half of the original shuttle fleet has been lost to catastrophic failure, along with 14 astronauts. The cost of a shuttle mission has hovered around $500 million despite early claims that it would be much less and would allow payloads to be carried aloft for as little as $50 per pound. The launch schedule has been unreliable, with many space customers wondering if their satellites would ever get to orbit; in some cases satellites have remained on the ground so long that their power supplies ran down and had to be replaced before launch. The shuttle program has been so frustrating to scientists that it was characterized by Bruce Murray, former head of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as "a giant WPA in the sky."

    Some critics say the space station offers little or nothing more, with a far-higher price tag. It is "international" as to the origin of some of its parts and some of its crew and, while the shuttle is grounded, the craft used to ferry the maintenance crews and supplies, but most of it is paid for by the United States. Some critics have argued that it is less a space station than an extension of the State Department.

    Charles Krauthammer has noted that an orbiting United Nations is unlikely to be any less foolish than one fixed on planet Earth. "The moon and Mars are beckoning," he wrote in January, 2000. "So why are we spending so much of our resources building a tinker-toy space station? In part because, a quarter-century late, we still need something to justify the shuttle. Yet the space station's purpose has shrunk to almost nothing. No one takes seriously its claims to be a platform for real science." Establishment of a permanent moon base and research and engineering work toward a flight to Mars would certainly replenish the idea of a space program engaged in real exploration.

    Whether a return to the moon would spark the public's imagination as it did in the 1960s is unknown. The world was transfixed July 20, 1969, as Apollo 11 landed and Neil Armstrong became the first man to stand on a celestial body other than Earth. But public and political enthusiasm for the moon soon waned. There were five more landings; the final three lunar shots were canceled. The last moon flight was in December 1972. No human has achieved escape velocity since.

    A new space initiative would face numerous hurdles, including congressional Democrats who in the present political climate would be likely to challenge a presidential declaration that the sky is blue. Additionally, congressional distrust of NASA is vigorous on both sides of the aisle following the Columbia accident. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R., N.Y.), and Rep. Ralph Hall, (D., Tex.), recently asked that NASA stop work on the $13 billion "orbital space plane," a smaller, cheaper space shuttle, until Congress and the president agree on NASA's goals. Others in Congress have argued that the space shuttle should remain on the ground permanently. The fact that a revamped space program would employ many people — especially in places such as Silicon Valley, where unemployment among engineers is high — might blunt much criticism, however.

    There are ideas and proposals that could offset concerns as to the value of returning to the moon and, perhaps, traveling beyond. Geologists are eager to take lunar-core samples, which could tell much about the solar system's past and how the moon itself was formed. It has recently been suggested that sunlight collected on the moon and beamed to Earth could provide a no-pollution source of power. Bill McInnis, a leading NASA engineer before he resigned in despair over shuttle-safety issues and ultimately took his own life, long lobbied for a return to the moon and talked of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and the folly of putting our antennae on Earth. "The signals we're looking for are so weak that the effects of somebody turning on a light a hundred miles away are stronger," he said. "The place to do it, the place to be free of Earthbound interference — that's the other side of the moon. The moon is the ultimate space station, it is where we can really learn things." Certainly, long-term lunar experience would facilitate a trip to Mars.

    NASA's budget has been far short of lavish since the last time the agency was aiming for the moon. The president has remarked to members of the White House space group that he does not favor a huge increase in spending for NASA projects. Whether he has changed his mind, and the extent to which he is willing to sell an ambitious new program of space exploration remains to be seen. If Bush does deliver the speech as planned, it would be another opportunity for him to finish business left pending when his father left office a decade ago.

    — Dennis E. Powell is a freelance writer, currently at work on a history of the space-shuttle program.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/powell200312030858.asp

    I think it is worth noting that Bush has already given the go-ahead for the Prometheus project. It is also said that Bush Jr. shares a certain penchant for Mars with his father, who made a short-lived push for a Mars mission until NASA quoted him an absurd price tag for a Battlestar Galactica style mission.
     
  2. Stelliform macrumors 68000

    Stelliform

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    This is why I am so glad that the Chinese have a space program. NASA would shut its doors without competition.
     
  3. Durandal7 thread starter macrumors 68040

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    A manned space program with the intent of visiting Mars or establishing a lunar base could be a great move for the economy right now. The tech and manufacturing industries would gain a huge boost if a large project like this came along. History shows that the original space program provided employment to an enormous amount of engineers and skilled manufacturers. He ought to ride the current economic upturn by taking a move such as this to boost employment and prevent another recession anytime soon.
     
  4. wdlove macrumors P6

    wdlove

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    Thank you for the update Durandal7, it sounds encouraging. Now that China has a grand plan it is time for the US to rise to the occasion. Beginng with a lunar base would be a great start. I would like to see President set a goal for the US space program. A goal that would rival that of President Kennedy in 1962.
     
  5. gwuMACaddict macrumors 68040

    gwuMACaddict

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  6. Macmaniac macrumors 68040

    Macmaniac

    #6
    Maybe George will do something good for a change;) I'm all for NASA getting more funding and increased interest in space is what the US needs again. Lets go to Mars:)
     
  7. kuyu macrumors 6502a

    kuyu

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    #7
    It's about time our gov renewed their interests in space. I think most americans believe that NASA is a waste of money, but I've heard that the space budget is <1% of our federal budget. Area 51, on the other hand, accounts for more money than we could dream of.

    I bet, were W. to insight a Kennedy'ish enthusiasm for space exploration, we'd all find out a little more about what "they" are working on in Roswell.

    *side note* Heat sheilds aren't really necesary if you drop back into the atmosphere slowly. Supposed 'magneto' drives would allow such a decent, as well as the ability to launch/land anywhere a helicopter can.

    **messege to top-secret government officials** We know you have the technology in Roswell, it's about time you used it.
     
  8. etoiles macrumors 6502a

    etoiles

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    ...I just hope this doesn't turn out into another pissing contest in outher space, with two nations comparing their might by the size of their rockets. Ok, who am I kidding...

    I guess "I just don't get it". Call me crazy, but I am convinced putting that sort of money into reducing pollution, improving health techologies, education etc. would create at least the same amount of jobs and make the world (you know, were we actually live) a better place.

    Humanity needs to learn how to walk, before it starts running...

    ;)
     
  9. Thanatoast macrumors 6502a

    Thanatoast

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    #9
    to a certain degree i agree with you etoiles. but i would argue (i may not be correct, mind you) that having a worthy goal would boost the morale of the nation. which is exactly why bush is proposing it. it gets people excited and feeling good about themselves. if bush's other policies were as high minded as he wants us to think this one is we would all be better off.

    but i think that going to the moon would be a good idea. if we're gonna waste money i'd rather it be on science than war.

    [edit for anti-bush trolling]
     
  10. Frohickey macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    While a revitalized space program is a good idea, we really need to reassess how we are going to do it.

    If we are going to do it in competition against the Chicoms, then we are going to need to get our manufacturing base back from Chicom. Don't you know that a lot of manufacturing jobs have moved offshore already, and most have gone to China? :mad:

    Heck, G5 are made in Chicom. :eek:
     
  11. Durandal7 thread starter macrumors 68040

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    I guess we'll all find out on the 17th :D

    I actually have a framed reproduction of a hard to find poster that Boeing made for a possible Mars mission back when it looked like Bush I and NASA were going to fund it.
     
  12. topicolo macrumors 68000

    topicolo

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    #12
    It's always good to get some friendly competition. Go China!

    Anyway, I think the administation should divert some of the funds they have going to the pentagon to the space program. This'll slow that ever expanding deficit burden.
     
  13. gwuMACaddict macrumors 68040

    gwuMACaddict

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    #13
    they're also too damn heavy go get in to space in the first place. think *single stage to orbit* problem... more than a little too much dead weight...
     
  14. Java macrumors regular

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    #14
    Crawford, we have a problem

    Does George W. actually know what a space program is? Or is this something asked from Rumsfeld?
     
  15. Les Kern macrumors 68040

    Les Kern

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    #15
    He'll put nukes up there, and Ashcroft will put up satellites to spy on US. Book it. He doesn't do anything good unless he's lying to a camera.
     
  16. Dont Hurt Me macrumors 603

    Dont Hurt Me

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    thanks also for the post durandal7, our space program does really need a push with absolutely no developement from nasa to get private industry going hence a pure quasi/govt/military/beauracratic/ money eating machine that has taken us where since apollo? low earth orbit? this is not only Nasa's fault but congress and past presidents too with a large sprinkling from the military.
     
  17. Mr. Anderson Moderator emeritus

    Mr. Anderson

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    #17
    excellent! Just what I was hoping would happen, especially with China coming out and saying they're planning on going to the moon.

    It is sad, though, that it has to be a competition instead of cooperation, but if it gets us there (Mars or the Moon) then that's fine.

    D
     
  18. jayscheuerle macrumors 68020

    jayscheuerle

    #18
    I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when they first broke it to Georgie that the Moon isn't made of green cheese and that we can't really get there via giant slingshot (but he still wants to go!).

    This man hasn't given the slightest reason to believe anything that comes out of his lips. One would have to be an idiot to do so, which jibes perfectly well with the fact that he appears to believe his words himself. This may be due to the fact that his jumbled, waltz-paced delivery often leaves everyone but him wondering what it was he just said.

    There's no financial room for an ambitious space program after the hole the current administration has dug us. It would be a reckless publicity stunt. Perhaps private enterprise (fueled by the X-Prize!) will get us going somewhere.
     
  19. Dont Hurt Me macrumors 603

    Dont Hurt Me

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    without the X prize going on there would be no private space industry? Nasa/military has had a lock on space. like many have said it is sad it takes this to move the U.S. Space Program. 30 years after apollo we have a shuttle thats crashed twice, cant make high orbit, costs a hundred times what it should have cost and we are still using the 70's technology? I read all the time Nasa does this or comes up with this technology so why the hell we flying a 25 year old shuttle??? where are all those Xprograms? Politics have to be taken out of the program and it needs a steady progress path to space, not a new direction every 4years,nor left to flounder as a govt papermaking society it has. I would like Nasa to keep doing the space science but let someone else be in charge of building and flying and moving us off the paper and into real spacecraft and into the universe. the less govt the better sort of like the internet!
     
  20. Mr. Anderson Moderator emeritus

    Mr. Anderson

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    #20
    one fundamental obstacle for NASA is its unwillingness to commercialize space. They're losing money by not accepting *sponsorship*.

    Human presence in space will be dependent on getting regular people to orbit and beyond. That a space mining of the resources of near earth objects. Why bring everything up from the surface when its already up there? :D

    D
     
  21. Dont Hurt Me macrumors 603

    Dont Hurt Me

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    its time to open space and i dont mean by having bombs floating around in satellites but by building a Safe Economical way to High Orbit then building a Pure space vehicle- one that can go the moon. Think space 1999. The Eagle. Great concept. and then a moonbase that can grow and become self sustaining science center to a point.Great place for a telescope. we do it on the moon & that gives us the ability to do it anywhere in the inner solar system. Now we are ready to start exploring our Solar System. Nasa has been farting around in low orbit and low expectations for to long........Problem is the military complex is soacking up our tax dollars, and who do you think really runs this show? Presidents come and go but those boys in the Pentagon are there until retirement.
     
  22. patrick0brien macrumors 68040

    patrick0brien

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    #22
    -Stelliform

    The U.S. would close its doors without competition.

    My 86 year-old Grandfather visited for Thanksgiving last week. He served in "The War", and my family loves to rib him for the fact that every conversation one has with him always leads back to "The War".

    But ribbing aside, he said something this weekend I found very poignant. "The United States prefers sleep. It only fights a war to return to sleep. The Japanese woke us. The Germans woke us. The French woke us for Vietnam to fulfill our promise to them. The Soviets woke us when they launched Sputnik.
    The U.S. is a deep sleeper, and is often late to the party as a result, but when we wake, Yamamoto said it best: 'I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.'
    The politicians whine, the public moans, but when awakened, these people set a purpose, and will accomplish that purpose."

    I'm all for going back to the moon. And I must say I'm pleasantly surprised it may come from Bush, a member of a political party not known for supporting spaceflight.

    We just needed the competition to awaken us.
     
  23. Dont Hurt Me macrumors 603

    Dont Hurt Me

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    maybe so patrickobrien but if we cant get along on the planet i dont know if we can get along in space? since we are talking space one more thing and dont think im a loon but the military govt complex will have to come clean on the matter of UFO's before space can be opened up. they still dont want to talk about or even acknowledge the subject. we have a long ways to go maybe there is a reason our govt is holding back?
     
  24. wdlove macrumors P6

    wdlove

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    Thank you Durandal7. I also am looking forward to the speech on the 17th.

    Could you post a picture of your framed reproduction? I would be very interested to see the poster.

    I agree with Mr. Anderson, would like to see cooperation between the private sector and NASA.
     
  25. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #25
    Where's all the money for space exploration going to come from? Congress has been none to spendthrift on space exploration lately. Oh well, it took a challenge from the Soviets to get us off our ass and onto the moon, so maybe this is the same thing. It just seems like a pissing contest to do it just because another country is going to.

    Not that I don't think space exploration is a worthy endeavour, I just would like to see it motivated by pure scientific interest rather than proving whose rocket is bigger.
     

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