Yesterday was an historic day for NASA and the future of human space exploration. President Obama gave a speech at Kennedy Space Center detailing his vision for the future of this country’s space program. Check out this week’s Science Friday for a review of the new plan, including video of Obama’s speech, and find out what Leonard Nimoy has to say about it.
Obama’s Speech on the future of NASA and human space exploration
Extending Life of the ISS With the Help of Private Companies
One of the first talking points in Obama’s speech yesterday was the extension of the life of the International Space Station. While plans for the future of the ISS have been unclear, the President has stated that we wants to continue to use the ISS for what it was intended, doing advanced scientific research that will benefit the day to day lives of those living on the Earth, for at least another five years. In order to send astronauts to the station, Obama has called for the help of private companies that would compete to build better and more cost effective technologies to be able to send men into space more often. Some have criticized this approach saying that private industry is not ready to take on this task, but the president noted that NASA has been using the services of private industry since the days of the Mercury capsules, and that with their help we will be able to send men into low Earth orbit much more frequently.
The ISS gets a longer life
Constellation’s Orion Capsule Back on Track + Heavy Lifter Rocket
Some people have been concerned at the cancellation of the now over budget and behind schedule Constellation program that was slated to take men back to the moon. The president has announced that the Orion capsule, a part of the Constellation program, will be renewed and made into an escape pod for the International Space Station rather than relying on the Russian Soyuz. This move will renew some of the jobs slated to be lost by the cancellation of Constellation, and will go towards building a large manned capsule that could eventually be taken beyond Earth orbit on a heavy lifter. The president has set the goal of choosing a new design for a heavy lifter rocket to take men into space (to replace the now retiring Space Shuttle) no later than 2015 and then begin to build it.
Orion gets a new purpose
Manned Missions to Asteroids, Mars, Beyond by 2030’s
Throughout his speech, Obama stressed his dedication to manned space exploration of deep space (meaning, in this case, beyond the Earth’s moon). His new vision sets the goal that in early in the next decade, NASA will carry out tests of new crewed flights to prove the systems required for exploration beyond low Earth orbit. By 2025, he expects that we will have a new spacecraft designed to take humans beyond the Moon for the first time in history.
So we’ll start — we’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. (Applause.) By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it. (Applause.)
The president clearly set out a goal of going to an asteroid, and then taking men to orbit Mars and eventually land their by the mid-2030s. After his new NASA budget was originally announced (which scrapped the Constellation plan of going of returning to the Moon), there was no such goal, which has been the largest criticism from those involved in the program. Many were hoping for a goal of sending men to Mars by a specified date, and in this case, the president delivered.
Men to asteroids, Mars by 2030’s
NASA Gets $6Billion Budget Increase + More Jobs
In order to tackle all of these new goals and ideals, the NASA budget needs to be increased and sustained. While the country remains in a freeze on any new discretionary spending, the president has allocated funds by cutting back other programs and giving that money to NASA. Over the next 5 years, NASA will get an injection of $6Billion. That will be a nice increase to the current $17.8Billion budget of the administration. Additionally, the president has assured NASA that these new programs will create lots of new jobs along the space coast (primarily Fla and Tex). This comes as good news to members of Constellation and other programs that feared the loss of their jobs due to the program changes.
Budget increase and more jobs at NASA centers
Nimoy Weighs in: "Obama is a Star Trek fan"
Yesterday Star Trek’s original Spock, Leonard Nimoy attended the 26th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, where he accepted the 2010 Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award for being an inspiration to those entering the sciences. According to Space.com Nimoy watched the president’s speech and offered some thoughts. Here is an excerpt:
"I do believe that President Obama means it when he says that he is 100 percent interested in space," Nimoy told reporters. "I know for sure he’s a Star Trek fan," he said, because the first time the two men met, President Obama made Spock’s traditional V-shaped finger spread.
Nimoy said he didn’t feel qualified to speak to the merits of the president’s new plan for space, but that it sounded like a positive direction.
"All-in-all I’m looking forward," he said. "I hope it’s going to work out for the best."
If you want even more details on the new Obama policy visit spaceref.com for the full overview.
If you are on Twitter, you know there are plenty of amazing people out there tweeting away. And, many of them are scientists! Every Friday I’ll be bringing you a new list of great scientists and techies to follow on Twitter. This week…
- @nasa: News straight from the source. Official Twitter of NASA.
- @TheRealNimoy: Yes, Leonard Nimoy is on Twitter!
- @Voyager2: Tweets from the farthest spacecraft out there – V’Ger
TrekMovie’s Science Friday is an homage the the great NPR radio show Science Friday. Science Friday® is a registered service mark of ScienceFriday Inc.