My deep hope that I will live in the time of a moonbase or a Mars base keeps getting lifted up and then dashed to the ground. Bush promised me a moonbase. Obama promised me Mars missions. But in his latest budget proposal NASA is getting stiffed.
Actually, I think it’s worse than that. Manned missions are getting a $200 million bump while Mars exploration and outer-planets missions are getting a $309 million decrease. But seriously, we’ve all but learned all we can learn with the kinds of manned missions we’ve been running. I mean, I’m not completely sure what NASA has up its sleeve … or what it hopes the European Space Agency has up their sleeve, but in my opinion the only reason to continue running manned missions is to keep our ever-increasing pool of astronauts Mars-ready.
But if you’re cutting Mars-mission funding…
These are dark times. We have to make cuts, we have to make hard decisions. Honestly, the manned space program is more like a giant statue of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and T. Roosevelt than it is a serious public service (right now). I understand that. With the Space Race and the Arms Race behind us and the American economy only predicted to recover this year if such a prediction is followed by a list of caveats a forearm long, NASA was sure to take a hit. I’m not saying I’m surprised. I’m just saying, as I’ve said every year since I was about five: I want my moonbase.
You know, I can’t help but think that massive research funding going into the aeronautic, zero-gravity, and general purpose engineering that space travel requires, might spur some starry-eyed teenagers into pursuing one of those STEM degrees that everyone is saying is the future of American prosperity.
You know. I wanted this to be a nice technocratic post, but I just can’t keep my emotions out. Technocratically, this is probably a good choice. A flat budget for NASA decreases their real allotment at the rate of inflation–that is to say slowly and predictably. It’s a good way to rein in their ambition and encourage them to make wise use of the money they do get. And hopefully it won’t be a horrible shock to the general space industry the way the entirely planned shutdown of the shuttle program was to the town of Cape Canaveral.
But even if more math, science, technology, space savvy folks get the axe, the amount of jobless engineers roaming about the countryside will hopefully open up new technological frontiers in unforeseeable fields we could take advantage of right now, rather than in two or three generations when we do finally get around to figuring out what good a moonbase is for.