NASA findings out of this world
Constellation, NASA’s back-to-the moon program has been removed from the Obama administration’s 2011 budget. The Bush-era program within the space agency had already spent $9 billion on a new rocket, Ares 1, and a crew capsule. This news came in shortly after scientists operating NASA’s Kepler planet hunting satellite reported that they had identified 1,235 possible planets orbiting other stars, which would triple the current number of known planets. Fifty four of these planets happen to be located in potentially habitable zones where temperatures from stars could be hospitable for liquid water.
Critics of the budget cut cite the loss of jobs and scientific innovation as the key downsides to the action.
A Washington Post article published last Wednesday reported that Senator Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) said, “The president’s proposed NASA budget begins the death march for the future of US human spaceflight. If this budget is enacted, NASA will no longer be an agency of innovation and hard science.”
Is this any different than the same job loss that comes as a result of an old invention or outdated technology? These job losses mean job creation for what the administration plans to fund.
The administration has offered alternatives to the spending on Constellation. The proposed budget would invest $6 billion over the next five years into a commercial space taxi to carry astronauts into low Earth orbit. It would also allow for billions of dollars to be invested into developing new space technologies. Charles Bolded, a NASA administrator, said that they will pursue technology that will allow astronauts to explore the cosmos. “Imagine trips to Mars that take weeks instead of nearly a year,” Bolden said.
Discovering as many planets as the Kepler telescope did is astounding. Chief scientist for Kepler William Borucki said that 54 is “an enormous amount, an inconceivable amount. It’s amazing to see this huge number because up to now, we’ve had zero.” The opportunity to discover and learn more about outer space, our own technological potential and even Earth definitely outweighs our need to continually travel to the moon.
If we are ever going to develop the necessary knowledge, skills and tools to travel beyond our comfort zone, we have to stop looking at the consequences of actions on a short term basis. Creating the opportunity to begin scientific advancement will only benefit us in the long run.