It’s been awhile since I’ve ranted here, but I think I’ve had enough. Nearly everything that I mistrust or dislike about a government-run space program has been coming to pass in the last three months. We’ve got bureaucracy. We’ve got shifting priorities. We’ve got the annual budget battle. We’ve got “expert,” outside panels providing cover for the president as yet another shift in policy is planned. All this is to say that watching the space news, especially if you’re a fan of space in general, is bad for the soul.
The agency can’t fight back; they operate at the whim of the president. And the president hasn’t made up his mind yet. He’s waiting for the Augustine group to reduce the number of decisions for him. And there are other doubts: would the agency even fly Ares I-X if it continues to be delayed and the Augustine panel recommends include killing Ares I? And there’s little to no guarantee that anyone else can be depended upon to get human beings into space and beyond Earth orbit.
The Russians? To Earth orbit, maybe; but as soon as NASA has officially closed the Space Shuttle program’s doors and pulled up its stakes, their price for a Soyuz or Progress flight will double. If Obama doesn’t know it, he soon will, and there won’t be a damn thing he can do about it. The Euros? They’ve got an Automated Transfer Vehicle for cargo, but nothing for humans. The Chinese? Right. Because we get along with them so well. The Japanese? They’re in the same boat as the Europeans: cargo yes; people no. The Indians? Maybe, but not for awhile yet.
That leaves the American private sector, which I love so dearly. Funded as it is right now by Big Aero or entrepreneurial ego money, no one operating today could place Orion on one of their rockets and fly it. SpaceX wants to build their Dragon spacecraft, but they need to fly a couple of successful Falcon 9 flights first, yes? I don’t know anyone else who’s even close.
So I’m irritated and depressed by the whole situation. Bad enough the government is trying to “stimulate” the economy by printing a trillion dollars we don’t have. They want to level or cut NASA’s budget.
What the hell. At least I’ve got my health.