11:25 AM, May 19, 2014 • By SETH CROPSEY
Responding to mild U.S. sanctions on Russia, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced on May 13 that U.S. astronauts would no longer be welcome to ride to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard Russian rockets. “After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest the U.S. delivers its astronauts to the ISS with a trampoline,” said Rogozin.
The taunt is witless. But the truth behind it is incontestable. Obama administration space policy has wrung the manned element out of the U.S. space program with few alternatives, save Russia’s good will, to loft American astronauts into space.
American astronauts depend on Russian Soyuz rockets for transportation to the ISS now and in the foreseeable future because President Obama decided in 2010 to end NASA’s Constellation program. Constellation was a five year-old effort into which $9 billion dollars had been invested at the time of its cancellation. It would have replaced the ageing, accident-prone, and now-retired space shuttle with new rockets and a wingless spacecraft that could place astronauts in low-earth orbit—where the ISS circles the earth—and transport them to the moon where NASA intended to establish a permanent colony for exploration as well as a possible platform for launching American astronauts to Mars.
Demonstrating a surprising and uncharacteristic faith in the private sector, Obama initially set aside 1/340th of NASA’s $17 billion dollar budget for entrepreneurs to develop vehicles for manned space travel. This political sleight-of-hand worked. Republicans who would ordinarily have objected to an extended disruption of manned space flight because it would appear to diminish American leadership in space objected less than they did when in a parallel maneuver Obama appointed a Republican senator, Chuck Hagel, to be secretary of defense. Manned space flight is expensive because it demands redundant systems that can supply human needs and protect them against such perils as cosmic radiation and the effects of prolonged weightlessness. Since the decision to end Constellation, NASA has increased the money it invests in commercial solution to about 4 percent of its current budget. The money that went into the Apollo lunar program in 1969, the year that men first landed on the moon, amounted to 54 percent of NASA’s budget. So, private entrepreneurship or not, the next time NASA plans to send American astronauts into space aboard a large world-class American rocket is at a yet-to-be scheduled time in the 2020s.
But for now a public letter authored by three Americans who walked on the moon, Eugene Cernan, Jim Lovell, and the late Neil Armstrong has been proven correct. When the Obama administration cancelled the Constellation program in 2010 they wrote that, “America’s only path to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station will now be subject to an agreement with Russia to purchase on their Soyuz (at a price of over $50 million dollars per seat with significant increases expected in the near future—note: the cost is now $71 million per seat) until we have the capacity to provide transportation for ourselves.”
Absurdities multiply in this slow descent from the prestige that the U.S. enjoyed as a result of President Kennedy’s determination that American should land on the moon first. When the 2008 Obama campaign announced that it would cut funds for space exploration it added that money could be better spent on education. They hadn’t done their homework. American graduate degrees in engineering rose and fell in concert with the manned space program achieving a high point in the same year that Apollo 11’s lunar lander, Eagle, landed on the Sea of Tranquility. The shield that protects the spacecraft on its very high-speed return through the atmosphere is one of manned space flight’s many challenges, especially beyond low-earth orbit. There is no federal program besides manned space flight that is more certain to encourage cutting-edge technology and increase the demand for advanced degrees in engineering. And the hiatus in manned space exploration until some unspecified date in the future encourages the departure of the skilled base of scientific/technological expertise that will have to be built again if the U.S. decides to reconstruct a manned space program to equal the nation’s previous achievements.
11:10 AM, Mar 22, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Josh Gelernter on how to sanction the Russians:
Crimea has been annexed, and the Kremlin isn’t impressed by meager American Anschluss sanctions. More sanctions are evidently coming, and they present an opportunity.
10:41 AM, Mar 20, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
These days, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has time on its hands.
The decline of NASA and the senseless priorities of our governmentJun 10, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 37 • By P.J. O'ROURKE
Recently I spent some time surrounded by people who are smarter than I am, who are braver and more committed to human progress, who know more about science and technology, more about business and industry, and more about budgets and expenditures.
This is an experience Congress and the White House should have. Except Congress and the White House have this experience every day. And me too, but at least I know when it’s happening.
9:02 AM, Dec 18, 2012 • By ARI SCHULMAN
In December 1972, Eugene Cernan took a long climb up a short ladder on the lunar surface and became the last human being to set foot on another world. It was forty years ago this week that Apollo 17 completed its quarter million mile journey home, marking the last time to date humans have traveled more than a few hundred miles from earth.
1:23 PM, Jan 27, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
During last night’s debate, Mitt Romney responded to Newt Gingrich’s proposal that America establish a lunar colony by the end of the decade by saying that if someone presented him with that proposal, “I’d say, ‘You’re fired.’” While one might think Romney justified in firing someone who pitched Gingrich’s specific proposal, Romney gave the distinct impression that he also might have fired John F. Kennedy back in 1962.
10:10 PM, Jan 25, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Newt Gingrich is promising voters the moon—or a moon base, at least.
During what his campaign dubbed its “Space Coast Town Hall Meeting,” Gingrich told a packed Holiday Inn Express conference room on Wednesday evening that one of his goals at the end of two terms in the White House is to have the “first permanent base on the moon.” He also invoked John F. Kennedy just miles from the former president’s eponymous space center about the challenges and the potential of a reinvigorated space program.
1:27 PM, Nov 14, 2011 • By RAND SIMBERG
The crony capitalism represented by the failed “green energy” firm Solyndra has gotten a lot of media attention lately, but much lower on the public’s radar is a much bigger example of corporate pork over at the national space agency—and it’s bipartisan. Let’s call it Shuttlyndra.
Here’s how it works.
A little over a year ago, Congress approved a NASA authorization bill that mandated the agency to spend billions in taxpayer dollars over the next few years on a congressionally specified giant rocket with no defined mission and no budgets with which to build payloads for it.
9:25 AM, Jul 22, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Forty-two years ago yesterday, Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin ascended from the surface of the moon and rendezvoused with Michael Collins in the command module Columbia for their trip home from mankind’s maiden voyage to the moon. All three men are now in their 80s, and no human being has been on the moon since each of them was 42 — and now even the space shuttle has had its last liftoff.
Mark Albrecht's White House memoir is educational—and entertaining.6:30 AM, Jul 2, 2011 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
The Economist magazine thinks the Space Age is probably over, and the discussion of our space future (or non-future) in its new issue is intelligent and informative. I've found over the years, though, that in many instances, the Economist's suave articulation of the not-so-cutting edge of conventional wisdom proves wrong. Mark Albrecht hopes that's so in this case, because he's a believer in space exploration, and his new book argues for U.S. leadership in that endeavor.