Somber opinions on the space program from Charles Krauthammer:
WASHINGTON — Michael Crichton once wrote that if you had told a physicist in 1899 that within a hundred years humankind would, among other wonders (nukes, commercial airlines), “travel to the moon, and then lose interest … the physicist would almost certainly pronounce you mad.” In 2000, I quoted these lines expressing Crichton’s incredulity at America’s abandonment of the moon. It is now 2009 and the moon recedes ever further.
Next week marks the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing. We say we will return in 2020. But that promise was made by a previous president, and this president has defined himself as the anti-matter to George Bush. Moreover, for all Obama’s Kennedyesque qualities, he has expressed none of Kennedy’s enthusiasm for human space exploration.
I’ve heard the long-term problem that NASA faces summed up in these terms:
The Cycle of NASA Failure.
- They get a twenty-year program from an administration.
- They get their funding cut for that program over the next four to eight years.
- They get a new twenty-year program from the next administration.
Keep repeating until we no longer have a viable manned space program, which should hit sometime next year when the Shuttle gets retired. It’s going to be what, 2015 before Constellation gets off the ground? Assuming that it does, of course. In the meantime, I suppose that we could go with private space initia…
Sorry about that; I thought that I could write that and not break down in cynical laughter, but I can’t. Like a Democratic-controlled White House and Congress would ever consent to giving up government oversight on anything. Even if they hate doing manned space exploration anyway – and trust me: a political party that would put someone like Barney Frank in charge of Financial Services is a political party that hates doing manned space exploration – these people think in terms of bureaucratic turf wars, and bureaucrats never voluntarily give up oversight over something once they have it.
So, I guess that we’re stuck, then. Maybe space enthusiasts can start learning Mandarin or Hindustani (ahem)? – Because I’m pretty sure that this political lesson on the practical difference between ‘bad’ and ‘worse’ isn’t going to stick in enough people’s heads for long enough anyway.
Crossposted to Moe Lane.