REALSPACE: Obama’s Vision For Space Exploration. Haven't we seen this before?

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One aspect of the President’s administration that mystifies me, and which I don’t think gets as much press as it really should is his opinion on the Space Program and/or NASA (Arguably, the two are not the same). Despite the fact that he basically killed Project Constellation and Orion last month, the Dems are pretending this was a good thing, and us Republicans seem to have our priorities elsewhere. Why else would we not be screaming about it?

As most of you probably already know, the Flying Coffin we call the Space Shuttle is due to be retired this year. The follow-up spacecraft, the “Orion,” was trapped in slow-track development due to budgetary issues, and general NASA tomfoolery; and wouldn’t be flying until 2015 at the earliest. (Though obviously, given NASA’s record in such things, it’d be reasonable to add two to three years to that.)

What this means is that we’d have - at the least - a five year break during which we, the United States of America, *THE* leader in Space Exploration - will be unable to put a man in space. Unless, of course, we buy a ticket on a Soyuz or a Shenzhou. Ok, so this sucks, and it’s entirely due to the shortsightedness of NASA, and Congress, both of whom obviously intended to keep the shuttles flying forever. But five years isn’t forever, right?

Wellllllllll, you know, we’ve got this Democratic administration intent on being a sort of revividus of the Carter years (During which we also had no manned space program), so it might well be. Back in the Campaign, Obama clearly stated that he intended to “Postpone” the development of the Orion for five years, in order to free up money for social services. That’s five years above and beyond the already-ludicrously-long development schedule. What that means is that the US wouldn’t have manned spaceflight capability for *a full decade!* Ten years during which space would belong to the Russians and the Chinese, and (possibly) to India and the EU, both of whom have made some noise about developing their own manned programs (My money’s on India doing it, and the EU getting distracted by shiny objects and forgetting about it). The problem here is that a postponement of this long is effectively the same thing as a cancellation of a program we’ve already spent billions and billions on.

By miring it in development for such a long time, the likelyhood of *Ever* getting it off the ground diminishes massively, and, of course, it’ll be ludicrously obsolete if/when it ever does get off the ground. This decision has mystified even Congress, which, it it’s democratic majority days of the first year, you’d expect to rubberstamp anything The Big O suggested, excepting Healthcare, of course. This didn’t happen. Obama put together a commission to study options *Other* than Orion/Ares, and then they made a proposal to congress. Even Democratic senators didn’t quite follow the reasoning behind this. “I don’t see why we can’t just follow the plan we all voted for a couple years ago,” one Congressman said afterwards. Even among liberal democrats, I’ve found the more educated ones oppose the president’s weird opposition to Space. The hoi polloi seem to think the money should be freed up for preserving traditional chair manufacturing techniques, or programs to support gay marriage, or whatever the hell it is that hippies like this week, but the more educated liberal Democrats I’ve spoken with seem to think that the Space Program is one of the few things America does right, that it’s for the benefit of the world at large, and that there’s no real reason to shut down such a high-profile program that promotes Science.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and agree with our Liberal Democrat cousins on this one: Space Program = good, No Space Program = Bad. Everyone else in the world gets this, except, seemingly our current president, and Jimmy Carter. Even the Russians - who’s nation disintegrated, and who’s economy dropped to third world status literally overnight - even they made a point of maintaining their space program. The Chinese treated it as an essential part of their becoming a world power.

Well, there were signs that the President has realized that laying off 60,000 high-skilled workers in California, Florida, Texas, Utah, and Georgia is perhaps not a wise thing in our crappy-and-getting-worse economy, so he’s announced his ‘new’ plan for Space Exploration. http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=26647 And http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=28880 If that sounds familiar, it should. Minus the “No weapons in space” and “Increasing math studies” bric-a-brac, it is basically the exact same thing as President Bush’s “Vision for Space Exploration.” It is exactly the plan Congress voted to support in 2005. In fact, given the president’s record thus far, I’ll gurandamntee you that the whole “Demilitarization of Space” thing is just face-saving window dressing. We’ve got orbital weapons, so do the Russians, so do the Chinese, and there’s at least four other countries that have the capability for it. We’re *not* going to give ‘em up, since they don’t *officially* exist anyway. Why give up a gun no one can prove you have? Particularly when others have secret guns of their own?

NASA is - or was - continuing to follow the Bush plan in space. The Military is continuing to follow the Bush plan in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gay Marriage is a dead issue, Heathcare is a dead issue, the President has supported a mild faith-based initiative for social reform in communities, Guantanamo is still open, and realistically won’t be closed any time soon simply because no one wants terrorists in their own back yards, which is, of course, the reason they were sent there to begin with.

Is it just me, or is Obama’s first term shaping up to be George W. Bush’s third term? If I were a Democrat, I’d be pissed! But then of course, they are, aren’t they?

And then Obama abruptly cancelled "Constellation," the program that was going to get us back to the moon and eventually to Mars. He did it without congressional approval - because, as I've said, even his own party was mystified by his stance on the subject - he simply declined it funding, and now it's dead. Something like fifteen billion dollars flushed down the crapper with nothing to show for it, and the country is just *that* much closer to washed-up status, just *that* much more irrelevant.

Why? Well, obviously because he *COULDN'T* get anything else done. No end to war, no world peace, no universal healthcare, no economic recover, no this, no that, no the other, no end to blaming the Bush 2 administration for stuff O claimed he'd have fixed by now. He felt he needed a win, so he killed space, the one thing he promised to do in his campaign that wasn't staunchly protected. And so he did.

It's the equivalent of a boxer who can't win a single fight deciding to go beat up an old woman, just so he can feel better about himself.

Make no bones about it: this is a bad decision, and my opposition to it is surprisingly non-partisan. If a Republican president had unilaterally decided to shut down the space program, I'd be just as furious and just as vocal about it. This is a mistake that our children will still be paying for thirty years from now.

[Special thanks to curiously absent Neorandomizer for providing some information for this article.]

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