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Editorial: The Next Space Frontier

Last Friday, at a campaign event in Wyoming, presidential hopeful Barack Obama said the following: "I grew up on Star Trek. I believe in the final frontier." Obama went on to say he has issues with the way the space program is currently being run, and might trim funding until NASA’s mission has been clarified.

Obama:

NASA has lost focus and is no longer associated with inspiration, I don’t think our kids are watching the space shuttle launches. It used to be a remarkable thing. It doesn’t even pass for news anymore.

A fair point. As remarkable as it may seem to us, space travel rarely makes headlines. But as Obama noted, it hasn’t always been this way. In the 1960’s, an entire generation of young scientists and engineers found inspiration in the prospect of making human footprints on the moon and planets.

So did Gene Roddenberry. In 1964, the space program was just getting into high gear. The United States could only send two men at a time into orbit, in capsules with less legroom than an airline coach seat. But in that same year, Gene imagined that a starship with a crew of four hundred would someday cruise the interstellar byways in search of strange new worlds and new civilizations. Earth would be at peace in this future era, united in the common goal of exploring the Final Frontier.

Star Trek was pretty heady stuff in the 1960’s. But those were heady times. Social, political, and technological changes were happening at a breakneck pace. Nowhere was our growing technological prowess more evident than in our space program. After the first tentative flight of an American astronaut into space in 1961, President John F. Kennedy committed the United States to landing a man on the moon before the end of the decade. The two-man Gemini capsules of 1964 quickly led to the three-man Apollo, which led to the moon. Interstellar travel is still a dream, but landing the first man on the moon in 1969 was an achievement of almost mythic proportions.

Space travel clearly doesn’t have the same magic today. The space shuttle system, despite two tragic accidents, has made the job of “astronaut” seem almost mundane. Few people can name even one astronaut working today. NASA is to some extent a victim of its own success.

But our venerable space agency is also hobbled by a lack of vision. Humans haven’t ventured beyond the relatively cozy confines of low Earth orbit since 1972. Robotic probes have been pushing back the boundaries of the Final Frontier in the intervening years, with spectacular results (and, it must be said, at much lower cost than the Apollo project). Humans have more or less stayed home.


Orion, the next craft for the final frontier (NASA artist rendition)

Each of the three presidential candidates has expressed support for continuing human space exploration. [see statements from: Obama, Clinton, McCain] Two questions remain: what vision will grow from that support, and how much funding will be allocated for it?

This is a critical time for NASA. When it completes construction of the International Space Station in 2010, the Space Shuttle will be retired. The current Administration and Congress have not provided adequate funding to develop its replacement, Orion – an Apollo-style capsule atop a two-stage rocket that will be able to ferry six astronauts to the Station, and eventually crews of four to the moon – in time to pick up the reins from Shuttle. Until Orion is operational, U.S. astronauts will have to hitch rides to the Station on Russian space vehicles, at not inconsiderable expense. This is hardly a desirable situation.

Orion will also give us something the Space Shuttle lacked: the ability to send astronauts beyond Earth orbit. For the first time since the end of the Apollo program, the United States is poised to send astronauts back into deep space. All of us who have dreamed of exploring The Final Frontier should do everything we can to encourage the next president to embrace this goal. It can be accomplished without significant increases in the NASA budget (which currently stands at about 0.6 % of the Federal budget). We don’t need an expensive, “crash” program like Apollo to once again set our sights on the moon and destinations beyond. We simply need a commitment. A president willing to say this country can once again embrace the future and reach for the stars.

This is not to suggest that space exploration should be our next president’s highest priority. Health care, education, the environment, rebuilding roads and bridges, and restoring our good name overseas are far more important and immediate goals, and require much more money and government resources. And rightly so. But by investing a fraction of a cent of our Federal tax dollar, we can also create the infrastructure that will give our children the opportunity to participate in one of the greatest adventures humankind has ever conceived. If we do, our kids will live to see an international crew of astronauts explore Mars, a strange new world that may even harbor life. And who knows what else is out there waiting for us? We won’t find out by staying home.

 

Andre Bormanis was the Star Trek science advisor for several years before becoming a full-time writer and eventually producer for Star Trek: Enterprise. He holds a B.S. in Physics and an M.A. in Science, Technology, and Public Policy, the latter earned under a NASA Space Grant fellowship. He is a long-time space advocate and member of The Planetary Society; he recently wrote about the Orion program for their publication The Planetary Report, available online at www.planetary.org

 

Trek’s new advisor weighs in
Carolyn Porco, the leader of the Imaging Science team on NASA’S Cassini mission and a science advisor for JJ Abrams new “Star Trek” feature film also has a few thoughts about the choices our next president will making with regard to space exploration..

The fact that the Shuttle has been a going-nowhere kind of project seems not to be lost on some of the presidential candidates, which is very heartening. I think that, once in the White House, the next President, whoever that may be, will have the opportunity to see and hear first hand how vitally important NASA and both its humanflight and robotic enterprises are to our country’s technological standing in the world and in inspiring all of us — young and old alike — to greater achievements. And I suspect that once the next President sees up close just how aggressively other countries are pursuing their own humanflight programs, Executive Office support for moving Americans out… towards the Moon and beyond … will materialize.

 


 

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Chaya
March 9, 2008 2:08 pm

Never thought Obama liked Star Trek

March 9, 2008 2:12 pm

Just a quick note to commenters

Andre’s editorial is about space and space policy. Although it mentions political figures, it is only in reference to space policy in the future.

Please keep partisan political stuff out of the comments here.

ety3
March 9, 2008 2:13 pm

We need to build up China as our space enemy and compete against them. (That’s what got the ball rolling in the ’50s.)

So, China, hurry up with your program.

KS Trekker
March 9, 2008 2:16 pm

IT seems to me that working towards exploring space…and eventually *colonizing* other worlds (starting with our moon)…could help relieve some of the problems we are – and will be – facing with overcrowding and the depletion of our natural resources. Certainly that has to count for something.

On a side note – nice job by CBS-D on ‘By Any Other Name’.

VoR
March 9, 2008 2:17 pm

Love that Obama is a fan. =)

Josh
March 9, 2008 2:21 pm

I may not like Obama, but I’ll least give him a chance. It’s a good thing that all three candidates like exploration. One of them is going to be in office. I’m positive that our next president will do the right thing when it comes to exploration. I know she will.

SPB
March 9, 2008 2:32 pm

#2 –

I don’t know HOW you could talk about the current and future space program and NOT talk politics at the same time. Where NASA goes tomorrow will depend a lot on who’s in the White House, and who’s sitting in the House and Senate.

Just an observation.

Orb of the Emissary
March 9, 2008 2:36 pm

If we cancel the space program, how can humanity eventually become one of the founding races of the United Federation of Planets?? Come on people, let’s get going!

non-belligerency confirmed
March 9, 2008 2:46 pm

the use of kennedy’s voice in the new teaser, and the teaser in general, seem to very much summon the spirit of the apollo age. i feel that we are cycling back to hope and exploration both culturally and politically in america right now. youth are voting in troves, protest is replacing apathy, and even summer fashions echo those halcyon days of the 60’s. j.j. abrams just the right kind of intelligent populist to make the connection. there has never been a better time to revisit TOS, and the above article proves it.

#6
please see anthony’s post (#2). this is not the place for it, no matter how clever or snide you imagine you’re being.

trekgeezer
March 9, 2008 3:10 pm

How come every time NASA is mentioned, the politicians first impulse is to cut funding. The Space Program gets a minuscule percentage of the governments overall budget.

The way the funding is allotted is the problem. It’s very hard for NASA to plan long term projects like going back to the moon or going to Mars when they constantly operate with the budget ax hovering over their necks.

If you want to help space exploration join the National Space Society http://www.nss.org or The Planetary Society http://www.planetary.org

I’ve been a member of the NSS for 19 years. Nichelle Nichols, Bruce Boxleitner, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Freeman Dyson , Ben Bova, Arthur C. Clarke, and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry all sit on the Board of Governors.

Aaron R. (Sisko would approve)
March 9, 2008 3:22 pm

1st Sisko now Obama!

Obama 08
YES WE CAN!

KJTrek
March 9, 2008 3:29 pm

I think our country, and government have really lost perspective of the big picture. In the 60’s America was unrivaled in virtually all areas. We had fewer big worries, and we had the time and resources to devote to something so many thought was frivolous. We look back and can see that maybe we need to rethink our goals. America now feels pressured to re-assert itself and fight globalization when maybe we should strive for the global community that our space program could foster. Star Trek embodied what space exploration could achieve for us, and without sacrificing funding for other things too much, we need to look to the stars again.

#9 – cool down. I think we can have just a little fun on these boards.

March 9, 2008 3:31 pm

number 6 is fine. I just dont want to see flame wars. This is not an excuse to let everyone know how much you hate any candidates, parties, groups, or their supporters…this is about space. You have an issue with someone’s space policy…have at it.

A Familiar Voice
March 9, 2008 3:33 pm
Without a doubt we are currently mired in circles around the Earth, and it is a shame that it has taken so long for our leaders to realize it. Once the heavens were a place of wonder and hope; today, we see it as sheer nothingness, as if all that awaits us is an endless circle in our orbit around our Sun. If Earth is all there is, then mankind is doomed to perpetual infancy, and Tsiolkovsky will have been proved eminently sagacious, but wrong. The ceaseless preoccupation of popular culture with the trivial is a tragic waste of the talent we have as a people, as a generation, and as a culture. Not so long ago, those who are middle-aged now looked up into the skies and saw planets just like our own, only more exotic, more challenging, and even more glorious to behold. But since the 1970’s, we have become tragically bound to Mother Earth, taking the position of her defender, obsessing over issues of pollution and industrialization and mundane things of that order. What used to be called progress was deemed an offense against Earth. A famous advertisement for a new car today describes a car so eco-friendly, it practically disappears in no time, as twigs blowing in the wind. Instead of making a mark upon the universe, the popular thing to do is to assimilate into nothingness, to leave nature the mistress of our destiny. Awake, fellow beings. We slumber at our peril. Our technology falters… Read more »
Irishtrekkie
March 9, 2008 3:36 pm
good old nasa , i have hugh amounts of respect for nasa but i also lose some because of the america only policy they seem to want to do ( i think its more polical then anything ) i mean sure you can have a forgin astronaunt on the suttle but when you talk about building spacecraft and technology they dont want to hear from you , i mean i am talking about this from the side of my nations ageny (ESA – European space ageny ) that ESA where interest in working together on the next spacecraft ( basically what you call the orion ) but nasa where not interested. i know ESA(European Space agency) is now working with Roskosmos( Russians) and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency ) to bulid the CSTS , which i hope will go ahead, as i think working together is the way forward , between ESA , Roskosmos and JAXA ( i also know that the russian gave the chinese some help with their programe and it would be interesting to get them involed in my opinon) , i mean when International space station was build i thought that was it , this was the furture , nations working together , it would not be able who got to mars first or who put the flag on it, but the fact it was done. Maybe i am watching too much star trek and dreaming too much , but to me if we are going… Read more »
Richard Daystrom
March 9, 2008 3:36 pm

The next administration is really going to have a hard time not spending on space exploration regardless of who is in the White House. Just go to Spacedaily.com and see the other countries willing to spend the money on research and development. Of course the money we send them in aid or whatever probably compensates the difference they would have have spent. If we don’t watch out (US) we will end up sucking hind tit…

justcorbly
March 9, 2008 3:39 pm
Before we bash NASA too much, we need to remember that NASA’s mission and budget are determined by the President and the Congress, not by NASA. The USA has a civilan space program and its broad goals and objectives are determined in the White House. While I think NASA’s human flights post-Apollo have been grossly disappointing and often pointless, in fairness those missions were mandated by the President. NASA did not want to cancel all Apollo activity after Apollo 17. NASA did not want to build and fly the shuttle as it was eventually designed. NASA wanted to build a base on the moon and put people on Mars in the 1980’s. We also need to remember that the primary thing separating us from a world approximating that of Star Trek — even before the federal budget — is the matter of propulsion. Simply put, it takes too long to get from A to B. We need scientific and engineering breakthroughs that can increase the speed at which humans can travel in space by at least an order of magnitude. Not warp technology, just something that van get us to Mars in a few weeks instead of a few years. The longer the journey in space, the more it costs and the greater the risk. Finally, while I don’t agree that the primary purpose of human space flight is to inspire people stuck on the planet, I also do not agree that the primary purpose of space travel is to… Read more »
CmdrR
March 9, 2008 3:40 pm

Does this mean Barack is in the movie?

My love of NASA in the 1960’s is boundless. My love of the beauracracy that holds that name definitely knows limits. There’s no way to say this gently, so I’ll just say it: Space is too daunting to do anything but go boldly. That means many will die. Many. Do we have to be reckless? No. But, moving at a snail’s pace means little or no tangible results to a frustrated taxpayer population. We need incentive. Maybe one day we’ll all get behind the spirit of exploration, a la Trek. Heck, I’m ready now. But, the only thing I see motivating real advancement in space is profit. Yep, as Gordon Gecko says, “Greed is good.” Private enterprise (hmm, nice word) is our best bet. I do think that means some mistakes and MANY red shirts. But, as a people we owe it to ourselves. I don’t think there’ll be any shortage of volunteers. If I can kick the tires first, I’ll get on the first rocket. Maybe, the first starship?

Aaron R. (Sisko would approve)
March 9, 2008 3:41 pm

Creepy 14 creepy… Trek after all is about respecting and loving nature and planets. People, plants, or air the prime directive must apply. For had the dinosaur and earlier beings yet not been vanquished by the tidal forces of our universe we ourselves would not be here. If it is indeed to be our moment of doom one day in the future I don’t see why we should so much reflect on why didn’t we stop it but rather the journey and memories attained in our brief existence. For in the entire universe there may be a million, million earth type planets… who will tell me they have proof otherwise? A moment in time is all humanity will be in totality and why not relish our journey into the darkness of eternal night while we venture it together than destroying everything and everyone else around us.

Lancelot Narayan
March 9, 2008 3:47 pm

There’s a lot of talk in the above about ‘America’s position’ in all this.

The UFP is based on ALL countries of the world, ALL peoples, coming together for a common goal.

It is important that that begins now. Not only could this help in “restoring our good name overseas”, as Andre Bormanis puts it, but could help in understanding between everybody. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Lancelot Narayan
London, England

NCC-73515
March 9, 2008 3:47 pm

Note that the first german sci-fi spacecraft was also named “Orion” – and it aired ONE week before trek!!! in 1966.

A Familiar Voice
March 9, 2008 3:51 pm
While Senator Obama may speak of a loss of vision at NASA, it is quite ironic that it is at this very point that NASA has been the best-led and most visionary when considered over the last three decades. NASA Director Michael Griffin, almost single-handedly, has implemented President Bush’s plan to reach for the Moon once again, grappling and overcoming the problems of budget and timing once deemed entirely insurmountable. Through his hands-on efforts and ceaseless defense of America’s current vision for space exploration, Project Constellation may be the last, best hope for reaching the Moon again within our generation. Whatever one thinks of the current President, he at least had the audacity to announce a plan to a crewed return to the Moon and eventually to land a human being on Mars. Director Griffin, unlike his most recent predecessors, proved more than capable of bringing this vision to life — and this, despite all the intramural squabbling going on within the space exploration community. Budgetary cuts as hypothesized by Senator Obama would be a gross error and a punitive measure at precisely the wrong time in our history. Such cuts would harm not only our prospects to return to the Moon, but also the robotic exploration of our universe that has experienced such great success of late. One wonders if politicians really know what it is that benefits our shared destiny in space. It is certainly disappointing to regard threats of budget cuts as an incentive where — as… Read more »
A Familiar Voice
March 9, 2008 3:56 pm

But, 19, I have no desire for humanity to share the fate of the dinosaurs. Besides which, the various species of dinosaurs existed for hundreds of millions of years, while humanity has lived for barely a few hundred thousand.

Defending the Earth is well and good, but how well do we defend her if we doom mankind to extinction, all in the name of protecting her?

Furthermore, if Mother Earth is so fecund as you say, would she not shrug off our meager pollution in any event?

With the deaths of millions of species throughout the years, I should say that as far as Earth is concerned, it is every species for itself. As a member of that species, it is my duty to protect it at least as well as I protect the Earth.

asylumjn
March 9, 2008 3:57 pm

#14

How could we possibly expect to terraform and colonize other planets even less hospitable to life than our own if we don’t learn how to maintain ecological balance on our own planet first?

newman
March 9, 2008 4:02 pm

exploring the final frontier gives people hope.

A Familiar Voice
March 9, 2008 4:05 pm

The future of space exploration belongs to all of humanity — regardless of race, creed, or nationality. That the United States has seen fit to advance its geopolitical agenda is no reason that other nations should not race forward. I agree with those who believe that whatever will pass in our future for the United Federation of Planets will be spearheaded only by those with the desire as well as the capability to see the benefits of space even beyond the need of the next election cycle.

If it is ESA, or JAXA, or Roskosmos, or the China National Space Administration that manages to break away from our conceptual prison around low Earth orbit, then so be it. It is no longer, in practice, a question of who will succeed NASA if NASA fails, and that, perhaps, is not a bad thing.

The question, “If not NASA, who?” might no longer be the conundrum it once was. And any regrets along these lines will surely not be among those who seized the opportunity to succeed it in its by-then former mission to explore the farthest reaches beyond our grasp.

A Familiar Voice
March 9, 2008 4:09 pm

24, as a race we are capable of walking and chewing gum in a simultaneously pattern. We can both defend the Earth and yet also not only harbor, but express the will and capacity to leave her for other places beyond the suffocating comfort it provides.

It need hardly be demonstrated that a grown man who stays in the cradle surely does not deserve it — no matter how well, or how ecologically, it is maintained.

March 9, 2008 4:10 pm

a familiar voice….there is no need to dominate the comments…you have already written more than Andre

Garovorkin
March 9, 2008 4:14 pm

At the rate things are going for this country it may not be us but China.Russia ,japan or the European union that lands a man on Mars. Our nation is going broke on these foolish foreign adventures in Iraq and in Afganistan so whre is the money going to come from? its easy for people like Clinton and Obama and Bush to sound off about how important space exploration is because this a promise that if not kept won’t cost them any political capital with the voters at home and it sounds good to voters only during campaign season. Exploration space requires capital investment and resource that we no longer have the luxury of spending. To top it off when times get tight the last thing that people want to think about is space exploration, but rather about employment ,education for their children and keeping food on the table. The reality is that we are slowly loosing not only our technological edge and with it our pride in what we achieved in the past with regard to space exploration.

James Heaney - Wowbagger
March 9, 2008 4:18 pm

It is, to me, fair strange that Mr. Bormanis should present as an example Senator Obama, whose space strategy is the most moribund of the three. Sen. Obama opposes manned space flight and seeks to cut funding for NASA.

If were to vote based on space policy–and, like many of you, I will not–I would vote for Senator McCain, whose support for the Bush space plan has been total and is the only candidate who isn’t talking about slashing the lunar program. “Let us now embark upon this great journey into the stars to find whatever may await us”? Is that not an awesome mission?

It is a very nice article by Mr. Bormanis. I hope someone with some power reads it. The exploration of outer space is not a fun game–it is a human imperative, without which we will indeed one day find ourselves extinct.

I am impressed by your eloquence, Familiar Voice, if not by all of your beliefs. You write beautifully.

asylumjn
March 9, 2008 4:20 pm

The point I am trying to make here is that the same knowledge and ingenuity that would be required in order to terraform a planet or maintain life support systems on a manned spaceflight are not being demonstrated very well on our own planet. We’re losing balance on our own planet. How do we tip things in our favor on a lesser planet or artificially maintain things on a spaceship?

justcorbly
March 9, 2008 4:31 pm
#18: While profit will be perhaps the biggest boost to space travel, the incentives for it must be intrinsic, not structured as handouts from governments. Today, we see a very few businesspeople who are gambling that there is money to be made by launching satellites or providing glorified joy rides to the very rich. Neither activity can be considered space travel in its truest sense, but they do parallel very early attempts to make money with the airplane. #20: The political unification that permitted Starfleet and the UFP to be launched as initiatives of Earth preceded those initiatives. Whether that kind of unification is needed before real space travel becomes a reality depends on many factors. Frankly, though, I don’t expect to see the people of the Earth give up there ethnic and nationalistic biases until and unless they all face a single threat from outside, i.e., off the planet. #26: Each of the agencies you cite are financed by and serve the purposes of nations with specific and insular concerns. None of those agencies, including ESA, are fostering space travel as a means to brings about the political unification of the planet. If that political unification is a prerequisite for real human space travel, I suspect we will be waiting a very, very long time. (Note: the real prerequisites for serious human space travel are funding and political will. Each of those is not dependent on global unification. It’s also worth remembering that the political unification described in Trek… Read more »
Sulu was better
March 9, 2008 4:31 pm

Create technologies similar to warp drives, transporters, and enable humanity to explore the universe, in a scientific and peaceful manner???

YES WE CAN!!!!!!!

LOL, I love Obama…

kevin
March 9, 2008 4:33 pm

Ah, the greatness that is Obama. I cannot wait until he takes office and magically cure aids,diabetes,cancer,rickets,scurvy and jock itch. He will make the lame walk and the blind will see…cannot wait

justcorbly
March 9, 2008 4:34 pm

Oh… if Obama, or anyone else, really is arguing that NASA’s budget may need to be reduced until its mission is clarified, then he is being specious. As president, it would be his responsibility, not NASA’s, to clarifiy that agency’s mission. Mission clarification won’t happen unless the president spells it out.

Sulu was better
March 9, 2008 4:37 pm

Number 32

The aliens have already come here when they detected the signature of nuclear explosions, they have been monitoring human technology and are very interested in our nuclear capabilities. See roswell UFO crash right after we detonated our first nuclear weapon as a test, in the same area in new mexico. There have been so many cases, ufos flying over nuclear bases, throwing beams to scan, disabling warheads, even throwing beams on missles in the air and disabling the warheads…

However our real aliens dont seem to want contact, they are monitoring us and keeping a distance.. perhaps they have their own prime directive.

They are real and they are here. And humans are so stupid that most dont even believe this yet! LOL

justcorbly
March 9, 2008 4:39 pm

#34: Kevin, please remember that the “Yes We Can” theme addresses, very specifically, the despair that millions of Americans of both parties feel about their ability to influence political events. That slogan means yes, we can change the way our government works. It does not mean we can bring about utopia.

colin
March 9, 2008 4:40 pm

Sixty years ago, America could build a fleet of airplanes for the war effort. Now, when we attempt to build the next generation of fighters, we are having to rely on the contributions of other nations. This is due to the cost of the materials involved, and the expertise of the different parties involved. A fighter plane program is far less expensive than a manned space vehicle program.

When I heard that NASA refused aid from ESA for Project Constellation, I am dismayed. If we can’t afford to fully finance a jet fighter program (from concept to production), considering the amount of money that is allocated to the Defense department, how the heck are we going to finance this program? This is a terrible mistake, and I fear it will have repercussions on the progress of this project.

I am very doubtful that our nation will ever succeed again in landing humans on the Moon. Like so many other things in our nation, I believe we are ‘outsourcing’ this effort to other nations.

justcorbly
March 9, 2008 4:42 pm

#36: I think that’s a bit wacky, but hey. In any case, the thing to remember about the Vulcans showing up after Earth’s first warp flight is that the flight demonstrated human ability to get to Vulcan. Vulcans then, or your alleged aliens now, have little incentive to fret about us while we’re trapped on one planet.

Garovorkin
March 9, 2008 4:46 pm

Mr Bormanis is very eloquent writer indeed but the practical realities that no one here wants to hear is that space exploration will not unite us, cannot bring us together. There is too much that divides be it political, religious cultural, we will always fight and compete against one another not for the good of our species but for survival.

justcorbly
March 9, 2008 4:47 pm

>>”A fighter plane program is far less expensive than a manned space vehicle program.”

Not necesarily true. Remember that the cost of a single B-2 aircraft is at least $1 billion. That’s a significan fractiont of NASA’s annual budget allocation, which was only something over $16 billion in 2007. Any number of individual programs withing Defense exceed that every year by a subtantial margin.

Hugh Mann Bean
March 9, 2008 4:48 pm

Just look at the program descriptions of both Obama and Clinton. They use artful terminology to achieve the same goal, which is to terminate the current American effort to go back to the moon. There is nothing in their programs that suggests that they are remotely interested in the moon, and Clinton in particular says that she wants robotic probes to lay the groundwork for future human exploration. Obama’s program is no better — just read it and see that, spacewise, he’s more interested in using satellites to solve global warming than in anything else.

I’m never going to vote for McCain, but I agree with the person upthread who said that McCain’s program is the best of the three. That’s a dirty rotten shame, when the Republican candidate has the most progressive space program of all.

As for all the talk about saving the Earth, keep in mind that Apollo was created by men who were brought up believing in anything but ecology. Earth was the least of their concerns because getting OFF it was so much better. Maybe it’s time we learned from that.

4 8 15 16 23 42
March 9, 2008 4:50 pm

I’m tired of the NASA-centrism that seems to dominate conversations about the future of humans in space. (Thus, I like to see other responders like #14, #20, #26, etc. talk about the other programs.)

I do not agree with the sentiment that another space race, like with China, is the answer. I believe that the Roddenberry-like vision of a United Earth space program should start happening now — and I mean now, like this instant. Enough is enough with NASA doing one thing, Roscosmos another, China, JAXA, ESA, and the Brazilian space agency all doing their own thing (work on the ISS notwithstanding). We need to see full cooperation, with every country pulling together in all space endeavors. That is the only way to make space exploration and colonization feasible in the short and long run.

As the ESA ATV Jules Verne goes up in a beautiful Ariane 5 rocket today, I feel a swell of joy at the token international cooperation, but with the bittersweet tinge of regret that mostly every country’s budget is still nationally oriented.

The U.S. should be the one to take the lead, but sadly, the U.S., with all its might, is still the most selfish and self-serving country in the world. I hope I see a little of that change with the upcoming election. I know I will vote accordingly.

Garovorkin
March 9, 2008 4:56 pm

#43 the Us doesn’t have the will to take the lead in anything with regard to space travel. The money that could be going to it is being spent on defense and that gets priority over everything nowadays. By outsourcing everything we pretty much sealed . If there is a space race left we have long since thrown in the damned towel.

CE3J
March 9, 2008 4:56 pm

So if Barak is a Trek fan, does that mean that we will give up money? In ST:IV Kirk said they don’t use it.
Boy, I’d love that. Or perhaps everything in the future is on cards.
But that would really mess things up.
So let’s push for the future and a world where we do things for the betterment of mankind.

boJac
March 9, 2008 5:00 pm

I wrote my congressman about the NASA issue.

I told him that America is all about exploration, and we wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for explorers. Then I said that NASA’s job is to explore, and that to cut their budget would be unAmerican.

A juvenille letter, I know. But at least I let him know what I think!

MANIFEST DESTINY!

Garovorkin
March 9, 2008 5:16 pm

#45 lofty words are a person powerful enough to make this happen? and #46 Bojac , your letter no matter how well intentioned probably made no impact on your Congressman, if anything he probably never read it. Your congressman has more important issues on his mind and i guarantee you it ain’t space travel. I do applaud your effort though, I would not have had the guts to do that, at least you actually tried to do something which is more then most of us are willing to do.

US Taxpayer Dude
March 9, 2008 5:24 pm

Hahaha! I paid more than $75,000 in federal taxes last year, bless my CPA.

No more spending for NASA, for foreign aid, for silly “Feel Good” programs without effect. No more Splendid Little Wars either, for that matter. Ha! To pay for this space fantasy, after paying for a Laurence of Arabia fantasy, after paying for the Great Society fantasy, I will be forced into bankruptcy and then I will pay no taxes for anyone!!!!

(Well, actually my employees will be forced into bankruptcy. I’ll get by — but I won’t be paying any taxes by then anyway.)

Wake up people: real life co$t$ money. Lot$ of it.

March 9, 2008 5:38 pm

Well, if it wasn’t for people like Christopher Columbus pushing for funding for his little trip across the pond…well, we might have been set back decades or centuries. The influx of riches coming in from the Americas help fueled the Renaissance.
The same has happened in our early space history. Lots of technologies have been employed in modern society thanks to experimentation by NASA or the Air Force in developing space tech.
If we’re willing to mine the earth of all its resources, we should be just as willing to head to other planets to find more resources, ones that could allow upgrades in travel and technology. Besides, that’s the driving force behind humanity, no?
After all, why did Christopher Columbus decide to come to America? Not to find land, just to find a quicker path to Indonesia. And why did they want that? So they could get resources from Indonesia to Europe faster.

Garovorkin
March 9, 2008 5:42 pm

#49 this my last comment for this evening and on this article. Us taxpayer dude your talking practical realities that no one here wants to listen to. The truth is that there are more pie in the sky dreamers then is revenue pie to pay for these dreams of space the final frontier. Dreamers don’t understand economic reality, but they do get anawful lot of peolple to by into waht they are saying.

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