Chair Force Engineer

Monday, February 01, 2010

New Directions

I don't have much to say about the new NASA budget projections, aside from noting the bitter irony that they were released on the 7th anniversary of the Columbia disaster. The advantage of "Flexible Path" is a strong incentive for private enterprise to flourish in manned spaceflight; the consequence of its failure is no American manned spaceflight capability. The destinations of "Flexible Path" are equally susceptible to the vagaries of national will, the federal budget, and the capabilities of the private sector.

The new budget doesn't assure that the moon is lost; that was in the cards years ago with the mismatch between "Apollo on Steroids" and a shuttle-sized budget. Apollo thrived because of its front-loaded development budget; Mike Griffin gambled that he could either stretch that development out while still flying the Shuttle, or that Congress would give NASA a budget increase in the neighborhood of 20%. In the end, Congress kept the budget flat, and the timetable for a lunar landing kept getting pushed back to around the same time frame as an appearance in the World Series by the Chicago Cubs.

My hopes lie with the optimistic and upbeat people at firms like SpaceX who are now entrusted with America's future in space. Remember the adage of "Do good work" that drove the space industry during those heady days of Project Mercury. America is back to square one yet again, and her future rests on the shoulders of her industry. The nationalism-driven era of manned spaceflight is drawing to a close. The future has just begun.