The Orlando Sentinel, like me, is concerned about politics dragging out decisions on the new space policy. A couple points, though. Retiring the Shuttle isn’t “Obama’s plan” — that decision was made over six years ago, by the Bush administration. Similarly, this seems like a strange criticism:
Mr. Obama’s plan also calls for abandoning NASA’s next manned program, Constellation, and its goal of reaching the moon by 2020 for a new program that would aim for farther destinations. But the best the president has promised is that astronauts would be reaching asteroids sometime in the mid-2020s, and flying around Mars sometimes in the 2030s.
Those goals are so distant, they’re almost meaningless. Such a time lag would put at risk America’s legacy of leadership in manned space exploration.
Let’s see… 2020 for the moon minus 2004 when it was announced: sixteen years. 2025 for an asteroid minus 2010 when it was announced: fifteen years. The Obama plan seems to be a slightly less distant goal than the VSE. Did they complain then?
A resolution may not come till the end of the year, when lawmakers give final approval to the 2011 budget.
That’s far too long for space policy to be in limbo. There’s room for a reasonable compromise — perhaps keeping Constellation with a different rocket, or moving up the timeline for a new manned program.
I wouldn’t assume that there will even be one by the end of the year, and there may be a whole new set of lawmakers involved in the final 2011 budget. In fact, we know that Alan Mollohan won’t be committee chair next year.
And what does “keeping Constellation with a different rocket” mean? The Ares was one of the defining features of Constellation. Do they mean restoring the lunar goal? Or what?
[Update a while later]
A commenter asks:
What is there to Constellation but the rocket and the capsule? I didn’t know anything else existed.
A lot of people are in that boat. A lack of understanding of what Constellation is (and isn’t) is one of the sources of the policy confusion. I’ve actually written an article about that, that I hope will be published soon at Pajamas Media. But briefly, Constellation was all of the elements needed to get astronauts back to the lunar surface, but most of them were scheduled to be developed years from now. Only “the rocket and the capsule” are/were under current development.