The Fourth Era Of Space Exploration

Thoughts on the anniversaries from Austin Bay. In one of these eras, it would be nice to move from space exploration to space development and settlement. I think we have a lot better shot at that now, though.

[Mid-morning update]

The meaning of human spaceflight — twenty essays over at The Atlantic. I haven’t had time to read them yet — I suspect I’ll agree with some and disagree with others. I hadn’t previously heard of many of the authors.

The NASA Budget

Jeff Foust has the numbers on the deal worked out late last week. This is depressing:

In exploration, the CR directs NASA to spend at least $1.2 billion on the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and $1.8 billion on the Space Launch System “which shall have a lift capability not less than 130 tons and which shall have an upper stage and other core elements developed simultaneously.”

So NASA is forced to waste almost fifteen percent of its budget on a jobs program that will likely result in another programmatic failure in terms of actually flying anything. It’s also frustrating that the technology request was unfunded, though NASA probably will be able to come up with the money for it somewhere else.

As Major Tom points out in comments:

Griffin gave Ares I/Orion a larger budget (~$3.5B in FY10 rising to $5.5B in FY11 versus $3 billion in FY11) and easier requirements (25-tons versus 130-tons to LEO, ISS servicing versus BEO missions). Yet after five years of trying, Ares I and Orion never got past the lower-stage suborbital test stage. There’s no reason to believe that SLS/MPCV, if constrained to the same technical base, contracts, and workforce, can get a 5x bigger LV and more complex capsule operational in the same time for less money.

But it’s the law!

Yuri’s Night In LA

Griffith Observatory 7:30 – 9:00 PM
Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Admission is free

Join us for a very special opportunity to join over 200 events around the world celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of humanity’s first step into the cosmos. Hear Griffith Observatory’s Astronomical Observer, Anthony Cook, describe Yuri Gagarin’s historic 108 minute orbit around the planet and how it still affects us today. Look forward to the future as Virgin Galactic CEO, George Whitesides, describes how space travel might change in the coming 50 years. Meet Yuri’s Night co-founders Loretta Hidalgo-Whitesides and George Whitesides, share your own “where were you?” stories, and take part in this historic, global celebration of people in space.

Wood and Vine 9:00pm – 11:30pm
6280 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA

[Via Robin Snelson]

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!

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