Rand Simberg, a recovering aerospace engineer and a consultant in space commercialization, space tourism and Internet security, thinks it's time to get serious in space again:
... two successive failures of the Russian launch system on which NASA is now dependent to get the astronauts to the International Space Station since last summer’s retirement of the Space Shuttle had the agency contemplating abandoning the ISS, in which the nation has invested almost three decades and around a hundred billion dollars.
Why? Despite the fact that such an act would put at risk that national investment, they were concerned about the lives or health of an astronaut crew.
Think about that.
In war, we risk soldiers’, sailors’ and airmens’ lives every day. In the Navy, sailors are expected to risk, and even sacrifice, their lives if necessary to save a ship. But preserving the ISS, in which the nation has invested more than the cost of dozens of carrier battle groups, isn’t worth the risk of people, a key part of whose job description is exactly to take such risks? Are NASA astronauts national heroes, or national treasures, too valuable to hazard on actual spaceflight?
Well, some may have noticed that we’re in a new Cold War with the successor to our old adversary. Russia is sending assault helicopters and ships to help its ally in Syria remain in power and slaughter its people, not to mention its ongoing aid to Iran with its nuclear/missiles programs. There is a law called the Iran North Korea Syria Non-Proliferation Act (INSKNA) that dictates we not do business with nations that do such things, but it is toothless, at least with regard to Russia. Why?
Because every time we negotiate a new contract with the Russians to get our astronauts to and from the ISS, Congress is compelled to waive INSKNA. Given that Congress wants to continually underfund the commercial crew program which is the only hope of ending our dependence on them (now stretched out to 2017 according to NASA), the State Department is deprived of a means by which to pressure our adversary.
But there’s a solution.
There is indeed a solution but there also seems to be competing interests occupying NASA's focus:
In a message sent out today [Friday, June 22], NASA Administrator Charles Bolden celebrates Pride Month and honors the agency's LGBT employees.
Read NASA and Bolden's celebration of Pride after the jump!
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month commemorates the events of June 1969, when patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City staged an uprising to resist the police harassment and persecution to which LGBT Americans were commonly subjected. This uprising, which took place on June 28, 1969, 43 years ago, marked the beginning of a movement to outlaw discriminatory laws and practices against LGBT Americans.
In his 2011 Pride Month Proclamation to all NASA employees, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden stated:
“At NASA, we strive to be a model employer whose equal opportunity policies and practices extend to all of our employees. We recognize that innovation and investment in the future thrive on the different backgrounds, perspectives and life experiences of our workforce. We value and respect the achievements of our employees, and this month we honor the contributions of NASA’s LGBT employees in working toward the success of our agency.”
Nice move, NASA! Now can we snag an out astronaut already?!
A prominent NASA scientist penned a provocative column in the New York Times Thursday [May 10], suggesting the end of civilization could be nigh, thanks to Alberta's 'tar sands.'
"Global warming isn't a prediction. It is happening. That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves 'regardless of what we do,'" climatologist James Hanson wrote.
"If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies...twenty to 50 percent of the planet's species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk."
Hansen, who has directed the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies for nearly three decades, has published numerous articles on the subject of climate change.
Back in April, 49 former NASA employees pushed back against NASA's climate change advocacy, which was great to see.
With Simberg's clear linking of NASA's mission to national security interests, with the advocacy of so many former NASA's employee and hopefully with a change of leadership in the White House in November, perhaps, just perhaps, we can indeed get serious about returning to space.
Or we can continue to have the agency put out Gay Pride enjoinders and apocalyptic warnings of the coming end of civilization.
Choose wisely America.