Monday, February 01, 2010
I'm not yet sure what to think about the White House's plans for NASA - it seems that the White House is looking to do away with the Constellation program (and thus the focus on a return to the Moon that way) and NASA will not receive the extra $3 billion it would need for this anyway, but on the other hand it will receive an extra $1 billion in funding and the extra focus on private involvement may turn out to be a good thing. I'm of the opinion that private business needs to play a role in an area just a few steps behind the cutting edge of technology that NASA carries out, and what I mean by that is that NASA needs to keep on pushing the envelope in using and proving new technologies and carrying out science in areas that are both non-profitable and where only NASA is capable of going (on the science end this means missions throughout the Solar System and technology means testing ion drives, etc.) while private business should focus on picking up the slack in areas that NASA has gotten used to but hasn't been able to drive the cost down, which means easier tasks like sending cargo and crew to LEO.
This makes me cautiously optimistic, and since I see a settlement on the Moon as being of paramount importance this optimism depends on whether the Moon belongs to the former category or to the latter. Given its proximity I think it's just on the edge of belonging to the latter, and the Google Lunar X Prize is a good example of this.
On Space.com's article on the subject everyone else has their own opinion as well, and thus far there are 185 comments.
In any case, the previous planned date for a return to the Moon was 2020 and that projected a bit of a gap between 2012 and 2015 when the US wouldn't have the ability to send people into space, and the first measure of success for this new strategy will probably be simply whether the US is able to continue to send people into space or not after the Shuttles retire.