Yesterday TrekMovie presented an editorial by former Star Trek science advisor Andre Bormanis, supporting the new proposed change in NASA’s human spaceflight policy that including cancelling the Constellation program. Today we present an different point of view from veteran Trek designers (and active space advocates) Mike and Denise Okuda.
Support Project Constellation
by Michael & Denise Okuda
As long-time supporters of real-life space exploration, Denise and I were disappointed to learn that the proposed NASA budget for 2011 would cancel Project Constellation and the planned return to the Moon. Constellation, as you may know, began in 2004, after the tragic loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew. NASA was determined to make spaceflight safer for its astronauts, and it knew that it had to give those astronauts a worthwhile mission: exploration.
Constellation is tasked with developing boosters, spacecraft, and other systems to provide a safer replacement for the Space Shuttle, one that would enable a return to the Moon for the specific purpose of developing the ability for humans to live on another world. Unlike Apollo, Constellation is designed to run on a comparatively constrained budget. Constellation’s Ares boosters are based on Space Shuttle technology, reducing their development costs and improving safety and reliability.
Since 2004, NASA has made a lot of progress with Constellation. New rocket engines have been designed and tested. A new launch pad has been built at the Kennedy Space Center, and a massive new launch tower has just been completed. Prototype Orion capsules are being tested, even as prototype moon rovers are trekking through the desert. Design work on Altair lunar landers and next-generation space suits is well underway. And last October, NASA conducted the successful first launch of Project Constellation, the Ares I-X Development Test Flight. We’re finally on our way back to the Moon, and heading out to Mars.
Now, the administration has proposed to cancel Constellation in favor of a “flexible path” of technology development and the use of commercial launch services for astronauts to get into orbit. While technology development is a very good idea, it’s not a substitute for an actual mission with a real goal. Without a goal and a specific plan, we believe that NASA, however well-intentioned, will simply end up spending a lot of money without actually going anywhere. It’s happened before. We don’t want it to happen again. And while we believe that commercial spaceflight will be a reality in the relatively near future, the fact is that no such capability exists yet. Spaceflight is a difficult, dangerous enterprise, and it would be foolish to gamble the future of our nation’s space program by abandoning systems that are already well into development. With so much progress already made, we believe that canceling Constellation would be a serious mistake.
The good news is that the proposed budget is just that: A proposal. Over the next few weeks the Congress will review the proposal and will make whatever changes it deems necessary. Constellation can be saved if members of Congress – and the President – see that their constituents want it. That’s why we’re asking you to support Constellation by writing to the President and to their elected representatives.
Here’s a website that we’ve put together with more information on Constellation, plus resources on how to reach your elected officials.
Space exploration is vital source of technology and innovation for our society. The space program is one of the most effective means to stimulate economic growth, both in the short term and the long run. And exploration inspires our young people, even as it helps us comprehend the wonders of the final frontier, now and in the future. Please join us in making that future a reality by writing letters and by spreading the word to your friends.
-Mike and Denise Okuda
February 7, 2010
Besides having worked in the Star Trek art departments, Mike and Denise Okuda are long-time supporters of the space program. Mike has done graphics for NASA including the crew patch for STS-125, the recent Hubble Space Telescope servicing flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis and the department logo for Mission Operations. His work for Project Constellation includes the mission patch for the Ares I-X Development Flight Test. Last year, Mike was honored for his work with NASA’s Exceptional Public Service Medal.