President Obama gave a talk at NASA the other day where he outlined the plans for the space program for the next couple decades. Gone is a return to the Moon. Added is manned missions to some asteroids. Delayed until at least 2035 is a human mission to orbit Mars. Unmentioned is a mission landing on Mars.
There’s a lot to like with this plan, as Phil Plait explains in great detail. He has pretty much the same thoughts on this I do.
I’m in favor of us going to the asteroids, and there’s a large increase in NASA’s budget that I like. I was initially against closing down the Constellation program, but from what I understand it’s not actually all that good. Orion is still around, but being turned into a crew escape vehicle for the ISS.
I’m also in favor of us going to Mars, but to put it bluntly, I don’t want to wait until I’m in my mid-60’s for it to happen. My grandparent’s generation is the one that went to the Moon. My generation should’ve gone to Mars. Instead the first person to set foot on Mars is probably in first or second grade right now. Maybe. I understand that going to Mars is not nearly as easy as going to the Moon, but that brings up my complaints about that.
I do not understand at all why we are giving up on going back to the Moon. The last time we were there, I was about eight months old. We haven’t gone back since. We were just beginning some real science there, and there’s so much more to learn. This is like if Lewis and Clark had gone out West a couple times, then the President had said, “Ok, thanks! That’s all. Nothing more to see there.”
We need to go back to the Moon. Not just for more science, but because by developing new tech to get to the Moon we will have new tech to use when going to Mars. We can test-run everything on Moon missions. It’s so much easier to get to than Mars. There’s no reason we can’t do that while working on getting to the red planet.
And this ignores the inspiration factor. Imagine being a kid today and interested in science. You look up at the space station and see that and know that sometime after you’ve got kids of your own, we’ll possibly have people orbiting Mars. Maybe. You shrug and peruse a career as a
lion tamer accountant.
But instead imagine that you look up and know that we have people on the Moon, or about to get to the Moon, or having just left the Moon. You’d know that Mars was still a long way off, but in the meantime we’re on the freaking Moon! How much more inspiring would that be? Quite a bit I’d say.
As it stands we’re likely to have someone on the Moon within the next 10 – 15 years, just not an American. The Chinese have every intention of going there and setting up a base by 2014. Now I’m not some paranoid nationalist like a certain Congressman who was appalled we’ll be relying on “the Soviet Union” to get to the ISS, but, dammit, I want us to have a Moon base before the Chinese do! Before anyone does! We’re America, right? We’re supposed to be the big boys! We should be first.
Oh, and one last side note here. The shuttle fleet is retiring at the end of this year. This is thanks to George W who had the program start winding down before we had a replacement ready to go. Yes, this is the same level of preparation I’d come to expect from the administration that gave us the war in Iraq, massive deficits and the mess after Katrina. This guy is just the gift that keeps on fucking up, eh?