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A Year Later

On a day that we have for the first time landed a probe on another planet's moon, it is also the first anniversary of the day that President Bush announced a new direction for our nation's space activities. I don't use the phrase "space program," because I hope that it will be much more than that. To paraphrase the Space Frontier Foundation's motto, it's a vision, not a program.

How are we doing?

Well, while the president (probably wisely) didn't emphasize it in any way after the announcement, NASA has moved forward in implementing it, with a new Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, with a new and apparently able man in charge (Admiral Steidle, of Joint-Strike Fighter fame). After the recent election, he (along with Tom Delay) ensured that it received full funding for the current fiscal year (in the face of budget cuts for almost all other domestic programs). Exploration architecture studies were let, technology studies have been selected, and an RFP is about to be released for the first phase of development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle. I've been spending this week in Houston at a fairly intense workshop to work out many of the implementation issues, in support of one of those architecture studies.

This could all be contrasted with the response of his father's announcement in 1989, in which the project was immediately ridiculed in the media and the Congress, the NASA administrator worked behind the scenes to sabotage it on the Hill, NASA came out with an unaffordable price tag for it, and it died within a couple years.

I have many issues with the implementation of it (that I won't go into now), but it has many promising aspects, and if we're going to be spending government funds on manned space, they're probably being spent more effectively now that they have been since the end of Apollo (and perhaps in the history of NASA). If you're interested in what I had to say about it at the time, I actually had quite a bit. Just go here and scroll down to mid month, then scroll back up.

My real hope for our expansion into the cosmos continues to lie with the private sector, but it's nice to, for the first time in decades, not feel utterly hopeless about prospects for the government civil space sector.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Posted by Rand Simberg at January 14, 2005 07:42 AM
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One Year Later
Excerpt: NASA TV's "NASA Update with Sean O'Keefe" is running a short retrospective today on the first year of the Vision for Space Exploration. Robert Zimmerman at UPI offers a glimpse of what the next year holds. Rand Simberg comments on...
Weblog: MarsBlog -- News and Commentary on Space
Tracked: January 14, 2005 04:38 PM
It's really been a year already?
Excerpt: Rand Simberg, over at Transterrestrial Musings, reminds us that one year ago President Bush announced his vision for the American efforts in space. Follow the link and read the impressions and insights from someone actively involved in the process. Her...
Weblog: Rocket Jones
Tracked: January 16, 2005 08:04 AM

I think Mr Bush is ahead of he curve here. I believe he sees the advances in ALL technology that eventually came out of the NASA projects of the 60's. He is trying to spur the next wave of technology and boost our economy with it.

Posted by Steve at January 14, 2005 08:51 AM

"Exploration architecture studies were let, technology studies have been selected, and an RFP is about to be released for the first phase of development"

Umm .. so what exactly is new here ? IIRC paper heaps and viewgraphs have been core business of NASA for past few decades.
Where are the contracts, service purchase agreements, metal getting bent, launches ?

Posted by at January 14, 2005 10:55 AM

These are better, faster, cheaper paper studies.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at January 14, 2005 11:44 AM

All true. Glossy Powerpoint presentations aside, where is the action? Where are the progress reports?

I would like to see a website where we can all monitor NASA's Exploration Initiative progress and performance, otherwise I'll be forced to conclude that nothing significant is being done for a significant chunk of taxpayer money, and I'll lose interest.

Posted by Kevin Parkin at January 16, 2005 02:17 PM

Well, building a brand new spacecraft isn't like designing a new car or airplane. Even though I would like to see progress quickly made, you have to understand that these things take years. Hopefully this year we will be seeing a quickening in the pace of things, but metal most likely won't start being bent for another year or two (atleast that's my guess) It took NASA years to design and build the last moonship, the Apollo CSM. While Mercury and Gemini were grabbing all of the glory, the Apollo CSM was being built in the background. So have patience, and understand that building the CEV will take time.

Posted by Mike Majeski at January 20, 2005 07:27 PM

Speaking of landing probes on other celestial objects. When are we going to tell ESA to stop building probes? I understand that some pictures are better then none:

But this latest article just put me over the top on ESA's competence.

Posted by Hefty] at January 21, 2005 06:04 AM

Speaking of competence - it's worth remembering that NOBODY gets these things right all the time.

1. Hubble Mirror spherical aberration

2. Mars Polar lander - crashed when spurious signals prematurely deployed the landing legs and shut the engine off.

3. Mars Climate Orbiter - failed because of a fault in the navigation system

Posted by ceevee at January 22, 2005 03:35 AM

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