Former NASA administrator Mike Griffin once likened himself to Spock in his rational, emotionally-detached approach. Now Griffin's replacement, Charles Bolden, seems ready to inject new passion into a space agency that is struggling to reevaluate both long term goals and its vision for space exploration.
The new administrator choked up five times during a speech to agency employees on Tuesday where he pushed back against criticism that President Obama is uncommitted to space exploration, according to the Washington Post. Part of that emotional upwelling came as Bolden described meeting with the Apollo 11 astronauts on the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing.
Space News also quoted Bolden as saying that NASA "cannot continue to survive on the path we are on."
Such remarks came shortly before NASA announced that it had once again delayed the $360-million test flight for its next-generation Ares I rocket, pushing the date back to Halloween. Florida Today reported that the test, once planned for April, will now take place long after a review committee advises the Obama administration on the future of NASA's human spaceflight program.
NASA has already begun to consider an alternative plan to Constellation which would make use of existing shuttle parts to return astronauts to the moon.
Bolden may have given some indication of his future plans when he told the Associated Press that he would be disappointed if humans didn't get to Mars or beyond in his lifetime. Sounds like he and Buzz Aldrin are on the same page.
Can someone tell me the point of the space program? Scientific discovery of what exactly or is it just male bragging rights? Could those scientific resources be put to better use solving domestic problems (i.e. electric vehicles, mass transportation, high speed rail, clean coal emissions)?
Love, Peace & Soul
The point of the space program is not only to advance our understanding of the macro universe, but also the micro universe. In case you have not noticed; the advances that came from the worlds' space programs such as satellite technology and space exploration are invaluable.
The space program is not relegated to only the U.S.; it is typically a joint venture between many countries and industries.
Not a good program to scrap; but if we made better use of our funds and did not spend on redundant programs in the U.S., then NASA wouldn't seem so bad.
Yes, NASA is expensive, and I would agree, funds are misappropriated, worst of all is when multimillion dollar programs make it through R&D to prototype phase, and are then scrapped because there is a change in political leadership.
however, nasa has brought us these tech spin-offs: http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/en/kids/spinoffs2.shtml
(Yes, the Kid version)
In a few hundred years, no one will care weather we bought a genuine John Deere riding lawn mower, or some run of the mill Hasquara. No one will care if you are driving a cadallac or a Toyota. No one will care if you were wearing Abercrombie, or American Eagle. If you are like the vast majority of people no one will know much about us as individuals in the far future. But we can be a part of something that is bigger then ourselves, something that gets remembered. Nasa creates events that get remembered, events that define our time here on earth. I may speak only for myself, but I am willing to spend a few extra dollars on that.
You are not alone. I would rather see my tax money go to something that will move humanity forward rather than the trivial ideology holding us back that apparently gets the majority of our American dollars.
"Welcome! to the Federation Starship SS Buttcrack!!!"
Normally this is the part where I would criticize short sited outlook and the lack of intelligence, for no one would have any serious logic behind asking such a question as What's the point of Space Exploration.
But, that would ultimately be wrong and over zealous of me so I would like to see if I could help you understand the point of Space Exploration as a whole.
The higher function element of human cognition has made the homo sapien species succeptible to a higher level of curiousity than most other lifeforms on this planet. This has driven our race to answer questions that would satisfy our curiousity (now take into account where humanity started and how it came to be at it's current status).
As a result of our curiousity, we developed an understanding of the nature surrounding us that our knowledge grew to that of an academic level. With this knowledge we were able to evolve and change the environment that we live in (now consider the divide between the eras of humanity as hunter-gathers and the colonial period).
Our studies into natural sciences, trade skills, and other techniques have allowed us to improve upon our creations that we would otherwise deem the best design after initial creation (consider the difference between a sail boat and a nuclear powered warship; both can efficiently float but are vastly different).
When you track human development from the period of the mid 1950s to the late 1970s NASA and the RFSA have created technological components initially for space flight that today make living our everyday lives more efficient and comfortable (now consider the quality of life between one of the major homo genus types of early man and the modern man in the late mid 20th Century, let alone early 21st).
The initial purpose of space flight is not alone to satisfy human curiousity to understand every scale of the universe with the purpose of gaining greater wisdom, but to directly improve the quality of our lives here on Earth and where ever else we may venture in the universe for permanent homes.
By pushing the bar for improving the conditions that would allow humans to survive beyond Earth we would easily solves some of the problems you'd mention like clean coal emissions (you can forget about coal in the future; controled fusion is the way), mass transport, or economically friendly vehicles.
I hope this helps you understand that all scientific endeavors (especially space exploration) exist specifically to improve our lives. By looking beyond the general, you will understand the relevance.
"Welcome! to the Federation Starship SS Buttcrack!!!"
Here's another little article on inventions provided by NASA:
Yes its hard to predict exactly what benefit we'll receive from further pace exploration, but its a project that aims to discover some of our most fundamental questions of existence, What is life? Can it be found elsewhere in the Universe? And even if we can never answer those questions, the pursuit of the answers has driven human innovation and evolution of thought for thousands of years.
Think like this for a sec. An area of your life that stands to benefit greatly from the space program--and whose time has come in all our communities is simple water treatment techniques. This recycling and energy conservation level that we have attained would surely have come too late to save our world without the advances in awareness that are the greatest by-products of the program. Just as the water in the ISS cannot be replaced easily, nor can our planet's water. Without serious advances that come from learning in a lab where materials are unique, or precious, in their own right; mankind would already be doomed. Our world Will Die without these advances. Next time you turn on a faucet, think of the hydrogen content in what is going down the drain, that WILL be lost from our world--forever. As of now, we are only beginning to learn ways to stop it. Just a little example of what they Really do.
The point of the space program is about change. We need a paradigm shift in new technology to create jobs that result in true growth of the total global economy. John F. Kennedy had the vision to give us the Apollo Moon program that propelled America in a space race that produced spin-offs that have kept us at the cutting edge of science.
First and foremost, national and global security depends on the space program. Satellites that give us GPS, eyes-in the sky monitoring systems, internet, telephony, and satellite TV all rely on the space program and the ability of space access. The ability to monitor terrorist activities, and third world nuclear progress; rely on the space program to launch satellites that provide GPS for commerical and military objectives. The Predator, Reaper, and Global Hawk are the spear head of national security that utilize satellites to complete missions. Space access with ICBMs, and developed advanced launch vehicles maintain the United States as world force, keeping at bay third world nuclear powers from taking away our freedom.
Satellite images of weather, solar storms on the sun, space debris, and possible incoming astroids are invaluable to our survival. At the end of the day, the dinosaurs became extinct as a result of an astroid that impacted into the Yucatan Peninsula creating a nuclear winter wiping out larger life forms. With space access we can divert and avert such an astroid event that is inevitable.
There exist 135 million pieces of space debris that could at anytime be catastrophic, wiping out our satellite communications including internet, GPS, and Satellite TV. The collision of any one of 900 satellites with the space station would render Low Earth Orbit (LEO) space inaccessible, an event that could occur at anytime.
Within the next decade, we must create a reusable launch vehicle to remove space debris and create a much needed robust broadband with a 300 satellite constellation. The long term revenues from the enhanced satellite communications system would be in the trillions of dollars.
Satellite imaging will allow further development of oil wells and increased production to meet several decades of critical international demand until we have renewable green systems to augment energy needs. Space programs will produce RF-UV economical production of hydrogen as a clean feedstock for the next generation of internal combustion engines.
In conclusion, mankind's survival depends on the space program. Without space access we might as well crawl into the caves with the Taliban and regress to sharia law and champion Anarcho-primitivism of the unabomber. Even the Mumbai terrorists utilized GPS, global satellite direct telephones to perpetrate the attacks. We must develop the reusable launch vehicles that would best combat terrorism by helping the boots on the ground with satellite telecommunications support, GPS and manned and unmanned air strike support. The Mars mission will allow us to colonize a planet that maybe one day allow our survival resulting from a catastrophic astroid earth collision.
The purpose of spaceflight, especially manned spaceflight, is to avoid leaving the fate of mankind to those who don't see the point of spaceflight.