End of an Era: No Thanks, Mr. President!
The last space shuttle safely landed on Thursday. The shuttle program is over.
The United States no longer has the capacity for manned space flight.
NASA will never again build another craft for manned exploration of space. For NASA and the United States, the glory days of space flight are over forever.
On Friday, according to ABC news, 2,500 NASA technicians received their termination notices. In these harsh economic times ABC reports 8,000 more of their space colleagues will soon join them in the unemployment lines.
You see, in President Obama’s ‘grand plan’ manned space flight is being privatized.
While the shuttle was still flying NASA wasn’t funded to pay private contractors to begin designing a replacement vehicle for manned space flight. That part is new from Obama.
In Obama’s bold new plan, the U.S. is supposed to rent the new vehicle from private companies. That vehicle is still years away, its serious design not even started yet.
Not knowing Obama was coming to bring “change”, NASA foolishly spent about $10 billion working on a shuttle replacement vehicle called Orion. Obama, in his infinite wisdom, is spending $2.5 billion to cancel the project.
In the meantime American astronauts will have to hitch rides on Russian spacecraft to get to the International Space Station.
The Race to Mars!
On April 15, 2010 President Obama made his space speech before a specially selected audience of NASA management and private contractors at the JFK Space Flight Center in Florida:
“President Pledges Total Commitment to NASA” – President Barack Obama, 4/15/2010
During his speech the President said:
I am 100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future.
Speaking glowingly of America’s future manned space program he went on to say:
By 2025, we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the Moon into deep space. So we’ll start — we’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history.
By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it.
Ever mindful of the need for economic recovery and job creation the President explained:
My plan will add more than 2,500 jobs along the Space Coast in the next two years compared to the plan under the previous administration. This holds the promise of generating more than 10,000 jobs nationwide.
What the President did not say was that he canceled development of Orion two and a half months earlier. He also did not say that he recommended spending $2.5 billion in NASA’s ‘expanded’ budget to terminate it.
So, as of Friday, the United States officially no longer has a manned space flight program. That is the reason for the layoffs.
The Race to the Moon!
When I heard President Obama’s speech last year I was reminded of a much different speech made 49 years earlier by President Kennedy at Rice University in 1962. It called for funding the Apollo moon landing program.
A small video clip from that famous speech and its inspired result can be seen here:
“Kennedy Moon Landing Speech” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Rice University, 9/12/1062
The complete text of that speech is here:
“John F. Kennedy’s Rice Stadium Moon Speech” – JFK speech text, Rice University, 9/12/1962
Kennedy concludes that speech saying:
… the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.”
Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.
Less than 7 years later, from speech to reality, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.
The biggest difference between the Obama and Kennedy speeches… Kennedy called for funding a bold new program for man to explore the moon; Obama defended cancelling NASA’s years-long centerpiece project, called Constellation, to return us to the moon.
Instead, Obama made a completely off-the-cuff, unfunded call for landing a man on Mars more than 25 years from now… long after his presidency ends.
15 months ago President Obama extravagantly claimed, “My plan will add more than 2,500 jobs along the Space Coast in the next two years”.
Instead, he just fired 2,500 Space Coast workers with 8,ooo more soon to follow.
The President signed the “National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010” on 10/11/2010. Hidden in Section 1104 it says, “Recognizes and supports current executive branch efforts to assist and provide aid to communities that are adversely impacted by NASA program changes, contract or program cancellations, or proposed institutional changes in order to minimize the social and economic impacts to such communities.”
Things are different now and this country can no longer afford luxuries like a space program. Perhaps its time for private industry to take over.
Just don’t make us false promises of a new space program while you are taking the old one away.
As a boy I heard Kennedy’s famous space speech on an old B&W TV. I later memorize parts of it. Using my best impression of JFK I can still quote it from memory finishing with, “… new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”
Like many boys my age I was inspired by the space race to study science and technology. I religiously clipped out and saved every newspaper story about every new space flight.
I dreamed of being the first man to walk on the moon and was very depressed when I finally realized it wasn’t going to be me. I studied physics and astronomy in college.
My first born son, Orion, is named for the famous constellation of a great mythological hunter in the sky. Ironically, Obama last year budgeted $2.5 billion to end NASA’s Constellation program and Orion program.
After hearing President Obama’s space speech I realizing that my government will never inspire my 4-year-old grandson like my government once inspired me. I felt like crying.