August 23 News Items

The Concepts and Billions of Dollars Were There, So What Happened? Is Ares Next? (Source: Huntsville Times)
The American space program has no set goals, faces changing priorities and has axed multi-billion dollar projects every few years. A few examples: NASA spent $4 billion on an advanced solid rocket motor, but killed the program in 1994. The X-33 space plane concept cost $2 billion and disappeared from the drawing board in 2001. The Aerospike engine cost $1 billion but was also spiked in 2001. The RS-84 engine development project sputtered out in 2004 after $100 million was spent. Plans for the Orbital Space Plane, a shuttle replacement, were permanently docked in 2004 after spending $2 billion.

This drift wastes money and time - resources that may be in short supply for NASA in the future, experts say. "NASA really has that problem of no follow-up these days," said Don Nelson, who worked for more than 35 years for the space agency at Johnson Space Center in Houston, and closely with Marshall Space Flight Center on space shuttle projects. "The military is not quite as bad. They have their own special technology lab - Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) - that goes in and develops technology and the Pentagon uses it. "NASA just doesn't have that." (8/23)

NASA's Fate is Now Obama's Quandary (Source: Florida Today)
Significant job losses will come to Kennedy Space Center no matter what course President Barack Obama chooses for NASA after reviewing options from the Augustine Panel. An estimated 1,500 or more jobs likely will be lost, even if Obama decides to keep the shuttles flying through 2015. And U.S. astronauts won't fly beyond the International Space Station and Earth's orbit until the 2020s at best -- and possibly much later. Under all but one of the options still on the table, the shuttle fleet would be retired as planned in 2011. The resulting job losses are estimated at 3,500 to 7,000 at KSC alone. That doesn't account for indirect job losses for area businesses that depend on a busy spaceport.

Under every scenario, even those requiring Obama to invest billions of dollars more per year in NASA, American astronauts wouldn't venture beyond the space station and low Earth orbit before the end of the next decade. That includes NASA's current plan, which calls for a human moon mission by 2020. The panel said it's unlikely to happen until 2021 at best and maybe 2028. Almost all the options involve extending the use of the space station to 2020, possibly preserving a small number of payload-processing jobs at KSC. Click here to view the article. (8/23)

What's a Grown-Up Reason for our Space Program? (Source: Staunton (VA) News Leader)
Why does it seem that no one has the guts to criticize the billions — no, hundreds of billions — of dollars this country has wasted on rockets, shuttles, space stations and other space toys?! How does learning how to filter and then drink one's own urine while in outer space help me pay my rent or feed my children?

The space program is, and has been for a very, very long time, the biggest waste of tax dollars in the federal budget. Why does no one ever scream about that? Why must I hear "Patty Ann" announce news about the latest space junk (or shuttle, whichever you prefer) during a news break on the Glenn Beck show, but I never hear a peep from Mr. Beck about what an obscene waste of money this national hobby is? Is he afraid to attack this one? Has he been bought off by the "space lobby"?

Tell me ... what exactly does the space program accomplish that could not have been accomplished by private investors twice as fast and for half the money? No, check that — for one quarter the money? What makes this particular wasteful bureaucracy different? Why is it such a sacred cow? I contend the reason is quite simple ... embarrassingly simple, in fact. NASA is exempted from public criticism and massive budget cuts because too many grown men are really just little boys pretending to be all grown up. They love the space program for the same reason they love to drive big trucks and shoot guns — because each of these things fulfills a childhood urge. (8/23)

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