To the Moon and Mars – Is It True? September 3, 2008Posted by gordonwatts in politics, science, USA.
I’m still in Ottawa, gently re-integrating myself back into North America. I can actually stay up past 9pm now (jet lag!). Going though old email I stumbled on this:
The Democratic presidential candidate has called for the U.S. to lead the way in terms of space exploration, and wants to put astronauts on the moon yet again.
On top of that, he also wants to pursue the eventual goal of putting astronauts on Mars.
Barack Obama has come out and stated that by 2020, he wants another U.S. trip to the moon, and has also promised full support, with a great deal of funding for NASA.
Is that really Obama’s position? Wait. I guess I can look at his web site now… Under Issues on his site Science isn’t listed. Wait — I was about to get lost in how little Science is mentioned on his web site – which is a whole other post. Just concentrating on NASA… Ok — couldn’t find it under issues. I did find this position paper. I found it via a search engine, so I’m not sure exactly what it was (talking points for a speach, etc.). But it directly addresses space exploration. First of all, it is balanced. It notes that basic research (for climate change, etc.) has all been cut. And that funding would have to be restored.
But it still talks about human space flight – and almost always as a feel-good exercise rather than something scientific. When he gets to the meat of the human space flight component of what he wants to do, he starts with the following:
Human spaceflight is important to America’s political, economic, technological, and scientific leadership.
He supports a funding goal that maintains at least 10 percent of the total exploration systems budget for research and development.
So, 90% is all about feel good and getting back to the moon and mars, and 10% is about doing the actual science. Also, why is he so fixated on the microgravity experiments that were to take place on the International Space Station before funding cuts eliminated them?
I am a bit disappointed in this. I really don’t think it is a good use of our countries resources to send a person to Mars. I’m all for sending more robots there – lots of them. Much cheaper (it doesn’t matter so much if they don’t come back). And the science they can do is better (the rocket fuel you save on not sending a human you can use to send extra equipment).
I’d like to see this country get on with funding real science. And less of this:
“When I was growing up, NASA united Americans to a common purpose and inspired the world with accomplishments we are still proud of. Today, NASA is an organization that impacts many facets of American life. I believe NASA needs an inspirational vision for the 21st Century. My vision will build on the great goals set forth in recent years, to maintain a robust program of human space exploration and ensure the fulfillment of NASA’s mission….”