Not too many weeks ago, I made a promise to myself to stay away from American politics for good. The slime infesting the halls of government and narrow-minded sycophants seeking only their interests at the expense of everything else had turned my stomach to the point that I finally realized the rot had gone to the core making any attempt at reform the same as shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. However, I find myself once again forced to comment on the swirling cesspool, this time for my own narrow interests.
I voted for President Obama largely on the idea that he could lead the country into the 21st century in spite of stagnate views and festering apathy from far too many people who are fanatically holding onto an America that really last existed fifty some-odd years ago. Now to be fair, the suitcases of his family were not even unpacked in the White House when a storm of entrenched forces opened fire on him and have yet to let up. However, instead of the president rallying his forces and heading into the fire at least from my view he sat back and became more a sedate university professor observing the mud throwing and sausage making from a distance. Only recently after his health care reform looked to be roasting on an open fire with Republicans gleefully dancing among the flames like children from Lord of the Flies did he finally jump into the mix.
Along those same lines, I at least think the man is falling short again of the reasons I voted for him. Tomorrow Lord Brainiac will travel down to Florida to once again like all the presidents since Reagan and rededicate the country to some national goal in space. This is after canceling the Constellation program with billions already spent and some actual metal being cut. In its place, the president will propose that commercial companies will act as taxi drivers for American astronauts taking them to and from the International Space Station. Companies whose "space taxis" are at best full size display models but more than likely nice slides on a Power Point presentation.
However long it takes these vehicles to be built we will spend years paying the Russians 50 million dollars a seat to do it for us on their simple but very reliable Soyuz spacecraft. It is supposed by those people running things now that going with commercial spacecraft will be easier, cheaper, and push the boundaries of possible human space exploration finally out of low Earth orbit. While that may be the case a letter signed by the many former American astronauts, in my mind more reliable experts, differ:
NASA is budgeting billions of dollars to support the development of U.S. commercial spaceships that could help fill the gap. The beneficiaries of those billions would include smaller aerospace ventures, such as California-based SpaceX and Virginia-based Orbital Sciences. In their letter, the astronauts say that the availability of such craft "cannot be predicted with any certainty, but is likely to take substantially longer and be more expensive than we would hope."
The real experts go on to write:
Armstrong and his colleagues complained that the cancellation would amount to wasting the roughly $10 billion that has been allocated to Constellation over the past five years. "Equally importantly, we will have lost the many years required to re-create the equivalent of what we will have discarded," they wrote.
It would be wrong for me to ignore the problems with the Constellation program; it was over budget, behind schedule, and lost in a NASA bureaucracy that can make cold molasses look like running water. My point in all this is that after several administrations all making goals but never reaching them it is a sad state for a country that decided to land a man safely on the moon when it was still finding it difficult to launch a damn satellite into orbit.
Hell, I'm all for going to the real space explorations experts, the Russian, and ask them to teach us how to do it. More than likely it will be faster and cheaper in the long run. If the scattered brained American collective has post Cold War issues with the Russkies we can just wait for the Chinese and buy tickets on their flights. They have stated in no uncertain terms that they will land a man on the moon sometime in the 2020s. Even the Indians have it as a goal to reach the moon appearing far more determined and brave than we are right now. Then again they are not fighting two wars essentially over oil, have a decent education system, and a population a little more interested in something other than reality television and Tiger Woods screwing around.
Yes, Lord Brainiac will come out smiling tomorrow and give and impassioned speech saying that America will keep leading the world in manned space exploration by making our goal going to Mars. So excuse my cynicism if I say all he should do is replay the speeches by his last four predecessor on the subject because they are all empty words. I'll skip the speech and read up on former great powers that choked on keeping up with the future and thinking about more than immediate concerns and got left behind by those that could.