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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Key Questions: Where to Go? What to Fly?

The debate over the type of vehicle to be used to take American humans to space is underway in Washington today. Decisions must be made as to the direction of space science in the nation. New recommendations are to be made during the summer as a new NASA administrator and deputy administrator are to be confirmed by the United States Senate.

America's international partners are focused on exploration of the Moon and building new cargo vehicles to resupply the international space station. The Russians continue to provide a pathway to space for NASA astronauts and private citizens. The Chinese have demonstrated orbital capability and India will soon prove itself a human space pioneer in the next five years. And, the Europeans are in contemplation of various human spaceflight options as well.

But it is the United States that remains the leader in space today but Americans stand at a crossroads and it must act today to achieve the future. It is time to be decisive in policymaking or waste billions of dollars and loose the chance to continue to technologlogical leadership in space exploration to the Moon, Mars and Beyond. With the dawn of a new presidential administration there is a focus on leadership and direction. The President must have sound counsel and the wisdom to make the correct decisions if the nation is to have the spirit of exploration and renew of the spirit of a federal space agency that sometimes appears to have too frequently lost the 'can-do' mantra.

The critical decision before the United States is where it wishes to focus human space exploration: the Moon, Mars, or the asteroids. Moreover, the decision of what booster is to be designed or what off-the-shelf rocket technologies are to be incorporation into the journey ahead. The two decisions are essential if Americans are to make footprints into the history of our species in the 21st Century. Let us make the right decisions once again.

This week renewed options of a Shuttle-derived Sidemount Heavy Launch Vehicle [video] was proposed as an alternative to the Constellation Ares I and Ares V were made. There are also options of human-rating more traditional Delta IV or Atlas V boosters used by the military. The decisions involve mission, cost, quality, and payload capacity. Plans abound with the most recent offered by Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it is great to aim high, but I hope that the Moon isn't ignored in favor of Mars. We don't just need to go places; we also need to build infrastructure in space that business and utilize and expand. The Moon will become very important to the space economy in the future. I think the U.S. should build infrastructure there for science -- and business in the future. If there is to be long-term sustained development of space, the infrastructure needs to be there for business to utilize. Then Mars will be easier to attain as well.