There’s an interesting article over at The Space Review concerning NASA’s next-generation spacecraft – Orion – and the heavy-lift launcher – the Space Launch System – in regards to the ongoing questions over whether either program will remain on-or-near budget over the next few years and, to me at least, there are several paramount questions surrounding these two programs….
- Can the companies working alongside NASA keep to their respective schedules, even if – like most government programs – there are the occasional slipups in scheduling?
- Can NASA ensure that, even with Congress’ penchant for dictating space policy from the halls of Washington, said schedules remain relatively close to what they have planned?
- Even assuming the first two, can NASA and the companies working on both of these programs continue to do as they have currently planned at present if a new administration were to come in and change the program schedule and/or funding levels for both programs?
That last question is probably the most important of the questions above; anytime a new administration comes into office, there almost always is a change in budget levels and priorities and given this, one can only hope that the next administration keeps the funding levels where they are at present, if not for any other reason than for continuity.
Short answer: yes…no, wait: hell, yes!
Long answer: well, that’s a question that a recent Space Review article purports to answer…for what it’s worth, I agree with the article’s premise; the problem with recent space films such as Gravity, Elysium and (back in 2008) Wall-E was that either – at best – space was a needless distraction from the problems here on Earth or – worse – that space was a waste of money and resources.
The problem with these arguments is multi-fold in nature…for instance, just think of all the things around us that had – in some manner of speaking – their genesis in space exploration and human spaceflight. Case in point: telecommunications; without those great, grand communications satellites circling in geostationary orbit, good luck finding out what happens on the other side of the world. How about those new solar panels that seem to be popping up everywhere; a good chunk of the technology base that’s made them more-and-more inexpensive came from their usage in space as a ready-made source of energy generation. Just imagine what we could do if we could tap all that solar energy in space and send it down here to Earth, for example…and then tell me space travel’s not worth it.
Of course, there’s also the pioneer spirit inborn in all of us; that sense that’s been a part of the human psyche ever since the first cavemen left the shelter and safety of the caves and began wandering the earth…try to imagine what they thought whenever they looked up at the stars and first thought to themselves, What’s up there? It’s that same exploratory spirit that’s propelled man onwards throughout the ages, the same spirit of wonder and surprise that’s spurred man to travel to distant lands in search of many things – some good, some not-so-good – but the same overarching spirit is there, nonetheless.
Finally, there’s a simple, incalculable thought that should permeate all of us…all of us who believe in space exploration and who support human spaceflight and its’ that while humans are creatures of this earth, like every creature that’s born, there comes a time when we must leave the safety of that proverbial cave and explore the multitudes around us. Does this mean we ignore the problems around us? No, not for a moment…but it also doesn’t mean that we shrink back and say its’ not worth it; to do that would be to say to the Yuri Gagarins’ and Ed Whites’ of the world that their collective sacrifices weren’t worth it..and what would it say to future generations if they were to ask why we didn’t take the opportunity, the chance, to explore the universe around us…those are questions that we shouldn’t ask, because man in an exploratory creature by his very nature and habit and we should always remember the prophetic words of Konstantin Tsilokovsky, who once said…
Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever.
Given how much we depend on Russia for space travel at present (in regards to transit to/from the International Space Station), this can’t be good…
Citing Russia’s ongoing violations of Ukraine’s sovereign and territorial integrity, NASA told its officials today that the agency is suspending all contact with Russian government representatives. In an internal NASA memorandum obtained by The Verge, the agency said that the suspension includes travel to Russia, teleconferences, and visits by Russian government officials to NASA facilities. NASA is even suspending the exchange of emails with Russian officials.
Ongoing International Space Station activities are exempt from this suspension, however, as are meetings with other countries held outside of Russia that include the participation of Russian officials. The directives come directly from Michael O’Brien, the agency associate administrator for International and Interagency Relations.(The Verge via Booman Tribune)
And you wonder why I support commercial crew operations; here’s a good reason why: access to space.
Wednesday marked another milestone in the development of commercial spaceflight with the launch of the first Cygnus resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station; if this mission is successful, odds are there could be two resupply spacecraft in use – the SpaceX Dragon and Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus – supplying the ISS and freeing up NASA for deep-space missions down the road.
Quoting the Youtube: On August 13th, the Falcon 9 test rig (code name Grasshopper) completed a divert test, flying to a 250m altitude with a 100m lateral maneuver before returning to the center of the pad. The test demonstrated the vehicle’s ability to perform more aggressive steering maneuvers than have been attempted in previous flights.
Grasshopper is taller than a ten story building, which makes the control problem particularly challenging. Diverts like this are an important part of the trajectory in order to land the rocket precisely back at the launch site after reentering from space at hypersonic velocity.
Video Credit: SpaceX
…impressive. Simply impressive. And you wonder why SpaceX has been successful up to now, huh?
Ever wonder what it sounded like during a shuttle launch? Well, to quote Youtube on this one….
—From the upcoming Special Edition Ascent: Commemorating Space Shuttle DVD/BluRay by NASA/Glenn a movie from the point of view of the Solid Rocket Booster with sound mixing and enhancement done by the folks at Skywalker Sound. The sound is all from the camera microphones and not fake or replaced with foley artist sound. The Skywalker sound folks just helped bring it out and make it more audible.
…in other words, that’s the actual sounds heard from that perspective during a shuttle launch, said perspective being that of the Solid Rocket Boosters…
…with the launch of Orbital Sciences’ Antares A-1 rocket with a Cygnus Mass Simulator! Orbital Sciences now joins SpaceX as commercial spaceflight companies and the march of the commercial spaceflight industry continues on.
Congrats’ Antares! Go Cygnus!