31 July 2009

Space Policy Realism

A member of a US government panel examining the future of space policy had this to say yesterday:
“In fact, it is unclear whether NASA has the financing for any scenarios that do anything important beyond low-Earth orbit prior to 2020,” said Christopher F. Chyba, a Princeton professor of astrophysics and a panel member. “If we really want to do this, we have to provide a realistic budget for it. Otherwise, let’s be clear about the limits placed on us by the actual budget.”
NASA has never been too good at living within a budget, or accepting the fact that there is not a strong mandate for the establishment of human colonies elsewhere in the solar system. After Apollo NASA tried to get get around budget and political realities, leading to the mess that it finds itself in today. The story is told in the following paper:

Pielke Jr., R. A., 1993: A Reappraisal of the Space Shuttle Program. Space Policy, May, 133-157.

1 comment:

  1. What we do have enough in the budget for is to set up a low orbit logistics chain to support private efforts to establish a network of space based solar power stations. This is exactly the type of infrastructure development that our government undertook to develop the federal highway system and the Internet, both of which worked rather well. There are so many potential benefits to this that I cannot understand the lethargy surrounding this in the policy arena. The ultimate benefit, however, is even more important than continuous green energy--Once you are out of Earth's gravitational pull, you are essentially halfway to anywhere in our solar system. A low orbit infrastructure is a compelling public good, and one I greatly wish the Breakthough Institute would take up and advocate.