Future of NASA: No Buck Rogers means no bucks for space flights

July 08, 2011

I find the outlook for NASA over the next decade by Waleed Abdalati and Robert Braun to be very narrow minded, self-serving and steeped in false hope ("After space shuttle program, NASA's future still bright," July 4). I can see how as NASA's chief technologist and chief scientist, they would welcome an increase in funding in their respective areas, but they must face reality. In this unsettled budgetary environment, unfocused investments in science and technology are ripe for cuts and outright deletion. What could save this investment is a clearly defined path for human space flight that would require the investments that they hope for.

In January NASA was given that path forward. It was called the Vision for Space Exploration. This set concrete goals and a path forward for the U.S. to extend our human presence into the solar system. To do this would require those scientific breakthroughs and the development of new technologies that they mention. As the early NASA administrators knew all too well, it was the human space program that drove expenditures in science and technology. No Buck Rogers, no bucks!

That all ended in February of 2010 when the present administration scrapped this logical way forward and instituted what it refers to as a "flexible path." What it really amounts to is a list of places that would be nice to visit but with no means of getting there. It's even hard to see how we can take full advantage of our expensive and hard won achievement that is the International Space station when for the foreseeable future we have to depend on the good will of the Russian government to transport our crews there at $65 million a pop!

By reinstating the Vision for Space Exploration and extending our full time presence from low Earth orbit, to the moon and eventually Mars and beyond in a clearly defined methodical approach, NASA could show the need for investments for science and technology that they mention.

Earl Blake

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