Coverage of President Obama’s dead-on-arrival budget will, no doubt, focus on the issue of taxes on the wealthy, but it also defines other aspects of a vision for the nation.
Mars isn’t in it.
According to CBS News:
The president proposed cutting $309 million for studying planets this year, with more cuts in future years. After an already mostly built Mars mission in 2013, future journeys to the red planet are eliminated, put on hold or restructured. While the study of planets would be sliced 21 percent, spending for the overall budget and long delayed James Webb Space Telescope would increase 21 percent. The telescope which may cost $8 billion is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and would peer further into the universe and back in time than ever.
Which brings up the obvious question: What’s the point of looking into space — time, if you will — if we’re no longer interested in exploring what’s out there?
Obama wants to double the amount of money for private firms to develop “space taxis” to take people to the International Space Station, but at some point, doesn’t a space program have to involve more than going around and around in a circle?
The budget tends to prove Minnesota native Paul Dye’s comments to me the last time we talked about his role at NASA. Humans will mostly certainly go out into space to see what’s there. They probably won’t wear an American flag on their spacesuits, however.
This is not to say the United States of America is going to be the one to lead that charge. Just as British Empire tapered off and the Roman Empire tapered off, sooner or later almost all human institutions end, but that does not end what humankind does.
I’m a student of history and… a lot of folks have said recently, “why are we still messing around in lower earth orbit? We just keep going exactly where we’ve been for a long time.” It took the early exploration cultures — let’s go with the Portuguese — it took them quite awhile sailing around near coastal areas before they developed the technology to just leave land behind and head out into the deep blue. And to a certain extent that’s what we’ve been doing in lower Earth orbit.
There is still money for developing the Orion crew capsule, which could be used is the U.S. decides to re-engage in space exploration when it is ready in the next decade.
It was originally scheduled to fly in 2014. That won’t happen.