Isn’t it ironic that the agency which is supposed to be challenging the edge is taking so much heat for trying something new? I find myself teetering between laughter, slipping into a Lewis Black moment and fear that this tiny step towards a pro-frontier space policy will be slaughtered the same way so many good ideas are in Washington and for the same reasons: It threatens the cash flow to entrenched interests, and the control of those who are used to calling the shots. None of which have anything to do with our success or failure as a nation in the areas of exploration, science, job creation or lest we forget, opening the grandest frontier of all time…
Fact: The Constellation plan was a dead end, and would have resulted in a disastrous failure to return to the Moon, let alone put humans on Mars. That was an illusion, powerpoint pioneering at its best, smoke and mirrors at its worst. Back in the nineteen sixties even Von Braun called for the US to build infrastructure in LEO lest we not be able to sustain or conquest of space. He was over ruled in favour of a race to the Moon in the form of Apollo and in the end we got flags and footprints on the Moon and a generation that so can’t believe we aren’t still there that they question if we ever went. And NASA was going to do it again.
Thank god that this time they were stopped. For now at least. And as weird as it may have seemed just a year or two ago, I find myself and many in the Space Frontier movement on the side of the agency’s leadership. Strange days indeed my friends…but allies we are, and prepare we must.
Now we wait for the counter attack as parochial NASA leaders more concerned about the “welfare” of their own centres than the above mentioned goals will now conspire with members of congress who have vested interests in the status quo and their corporate donors and either do not understand that this new direction will mean more jobs, more missions and more overall good stuff for everyone or simply do not care.
And it is coming. Don’t doubt it. Behind the snow piles in Washington the forces of darkness are gathering and working on all new sets of powerpoints. The attack will come in the form of trying to cast doubts on people, companies and vehicles that represent change, and a push for a “new and improved” giant launch vehicle that will be touted as a minimally evolved use of the existing space shuttle architecture.
Let the dance begin! A battle of maneuver it will be indeed. The more weak kneed folks at NASA and the White House politicos who don’t give a dam about space may well be moved to support this new counter program to placate the congressional delegations from Florida and Alabama in particular. After all, one Alabama Senator can trump a whole passle of forces by simply holding up a budget…(or can he? see note about Maryland below.)
The Arizona Sub-Committee Chairwoman whose husband helped develop the now discredited “stick” known as Ares 1 will also weigh in – although with that program gone, she might be able to see the light that like ex-military pilots now flying business aircraft and airliners her husband and his ex-astronaut friends will have at least a chance to fly again if the commercial option to LEO survives and virtually None whatsoever if it does not.
The Texas and California delegations will at first be tempted to support the HLV concept, but with a bit less gusto, as California has the innovative Ames Space facility and of course JPL – which is going to win in the form of more funds and chances to fly its robotic exploration missions and is home to some rising star commercial firms as is Texas. Also, Johnson Space Center in Houston is a bit more of a mission oriented facility (ie – what you do when you get somewhere) than a launch vehicle design bureau like Marshall or flight facility like Kennedy. At some point its people will come to realize if they want to roll out their projects on the Moon and Mars they better line up behind Mr. Bolden and the New Space Age.
And with any luck a couple of powerhouses may step up to save the day, such as the nice lady from Maryland who may recognize that a win for the dinosaurs is a loss for her own state, especially her own Mid Atlantic Spaceport and its potential commercial spaceflight customers – ironically in competition with that same Florida launch facility being protected from evil commercial alternatives by their own senator….hmnnn…irony…hmnnnn.
And this little internet of ours will be flooded with debates, arguments and lies and half truths and of course my own complete truths. Let loose the blogs of war!
My words and wisdom aside, we will see what happens to this bold new initiative in the coming months. Will it “fly” or will it flounder. Will the White House and those with Vision stand their ground or will they run away, content to say they tried. Will one or two powerful Senators stand in the way of this attempt to reforge our space program into something exciting and viable and in the name of short term protectionism slam down the gavel on creativity to protect a socialist dinosaur, or will common sense and the true American ideals of enterprise and creativity win the day?
Interestingly, and something that should give our friends on the other side pause – it is important to note that in the end the frontier is going to be opened, and the New Space revolution is going to occur with or without NASA on board. Be it China or India or a huge fleet of American commercial rockets and hotels and rovers, and powersats and miners and labs and more… The real question is whether this once proud icon of American guts and glory gets it an gets on board and helps us do it by getting out there and blazing trails rather than trying to design and build the trucks and vehicles that will travel them, or is left behind on its own decaying launch pad.
I hope wisdom prevails…as this could be a lot of fun!