Thursday, January 3, 2008

Worst Case Scenario

Tonight in Iowa, new front runners were anointed in the race for President. The leading Democratic candidate appears intelligent, obviously well spoken, and confident. The leading Republican leaves us wondering about a candidate that believes the earth was created in seven days, but we'll save that discourse for another day, hoping that New Hampshire will right Iowa's wrong. Disregarding Sen. Obama's positions on a majority of issues, we will focus today on the one issue close to our hearts (an admittedly shortsighted way of picking candidates). We are most concerned about his position on the space program.

Recall the era of Sputnik . The original "space race" served as motivation and incentivized school kids in this country to study math and science. The junior senator from Illinois has said he would delay Constellation by five years to push his education objectives with the resulting savings. If he makes it to the Oval Office, other issues will also compete for his attention and resources. Who could argue with the need to invest more to obtain energy independence?

Of course, we here at RandS feel such a position is counterproductive. The $15B saved, give or take, could be spent to enhance the educational experience, but to what end? What will be pulling those enriched classrooms towards a higher calling? Where will the motivation come from to aspire students to think beyond our small sphere of influence, to create great technical accomplishments like those we achieved in landing the first men on the moon?

Unfortunately, the sad state of the broken Constellation architecture plays into this scenario. As the technical and performance failures come to light in the next few weeks and months, it will be easy for politicians to recant their support for the Vision for Space Exploration. Failing programs, started and supported by incumbents, are ready targets for candidates with "Change" as the central theme of their campaigns. While the American public is generally supportive of the space program, voters do not tend to hang their chads on this single issue.

We encourage all of our readers to participate in the process. Write your congressfolk. Write your candidates. Write the Emperor. Let them know what you think about your space program. The process works, but only if you play your part.

1 comment:

Space said...

Even without all the technical issues plaguing Constellation, ESAS and Griffin decisions that pushed the start of Ares V/EDS/LSAM development out to 2011 doomed the lunar return elements of Constellation to political and budgetary failure under the next Presidency anyway. The only sure way to ensure that the VSE got all the way to the Moon was to get the lunar elements under development before the Bush Administration left office. Now, there's no sunk-cost argument to the lunar return effort, and the next White House can easily decide to pass up the start of its funding.

The silver lining in all this is that at least with all of Ares I/Orion's mass, thrust, structural, stability, redundancy, and safety issues, the next White House will have reason to kill the effort early and decisively and maybe become vested in a real solution, rather than letting Constellation's later lunar elements die quietly on the vine out of budgetary neglect.