Obama Space Policy Reaction

On the one side, there’s Dr. Rendezvous himself, Buzz Aldrin, who is one of the few moonwalkers to support Obama’s decision to cancel our return to the moon.

On the other is Fox News, which seems to be taking the dim view: that the new plan represents a secession from the prime spot in space.

I’m somewhere in the middle. Everything the President said is A-OK, except:

“Now, I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the Moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before.”

That kind of thinking is going to lose us funding in the long run. We need a goal, a timeline, and something achievable soon, something the public knows and can get behind. Something to secure NASA’s future against the inevitable changing of Presidents. Make it so any major change will anger the populace too much to allow it.

Mars is obviously our ultimate goal as far as having people living in space full-time. It’s the only planet capable of, eventually, supporting life as does the Earth. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to learn from the moon.

A training base on the far side could provide the sort of real-world simulation and problem-solving training that no lander mock-up in any desert on Earth could ever provide. The very best short of the real thing. Research is being done, on the International Space Station, on the effects on human beings of living in space, but it’s not the same as living on a hostile world.

More economically interesting, of course, is the idea of a manufacturing base (and all the accoutrements it brings, such as families and schools and markets and neighborhoods, etc) building parts from lunar material and launching them into space for building spaceships or space colonies in Earth orbit. Radio telescopes on the far side, safely shielded from the Earth’s electronic chatter. In-situ resource utilization providing all the water and fuel we could ever want. Someday, Helium-3 could be mined for use in nuclear fusion reactors.

The moon is not just somewhere we’ve been before, some mountain to climb, never to be used except for the challenge of getting there. That kind of thinking gets us flags and footprints and not much else. So go to Mars, and Phobos, and asteroids, and Lagrangian points, and anywhere and everywhere, but don’t forget the moon. It’s not just the glory days all over again.

To close, here is a video of Neil deGrasse Tyson giving a speech in Buffalo, New York, which quite succinctly summarizes my concerns. Though given before the KSC speech, since not much really changed, I feel it’s still quite valid.


2 Responses to Obama Space Policy Reaction

  1. Pingback: AP Science Writer, NSS Excited About Asteroid Mission « The Space Geek

  2. Pingback: That High Wet Desert, the Moon « The Space Geek

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