Last Thursday I shared my thoughts in two short (<5 min) RussiaToday interviews on on President Obama’s big speech about NASA and his long-overdue cancellation of NASA’s white elephant known as “Ares I” rocket. (See Jeff Foust’s analysis here and here.) I was sorry to see the Administration decide to preserve the Orion capsule as a lifeboat for the International Space Station, but as I indicate below, I can’t really blame them for feeling they had to “throw a bone” to the Congressional lions defending that program and the jobs it created (using tax dollars that killed far more jobs, of course—a classic “seen v. unseen” problem).
But as I note below, the far more important good news is that, if Obama gets his way, NASA would finally buy crew launch services to ISS and for future deep space missions from the private sector (expanding its limited COTS program) instead of building its own rockets and capsule for this purpose. This decision is easily single best thing the Administration has done thus far. They have a tough fight ahead with the few members of Congress who actually care about this—who just so happen to be the ones whose districts will face job cuts when dead-end, wasteful make-work programs are canceled. The irony here is just too thick: Many of the same kinds of folks who’ve been decrying Obama as a socialist (not unjustly, in my opinion) now attack him on nationalist grounds for trying to turn part of our ultra-socialist space program over to the private sector.
Here’s another clip:
I’m not saying “space” isn’t important; indeed, quite the contrary! I think humanity’s future lies in space—but as a place, and not a program. To think that our national security is imperiled by the Chinese “beating us to the Moon” is just silly—the worst kind of chauvinism. “Space” is good for us, but pouring money down the drain of more white elephant programs isn’t going to lead to anything exciting or revolutionary in space. Only the private sector can do that—by bringing down launch costs—but government can help—by buying commercial services.