Posted by Steve Markowitz on September 4, 2011
International Space Station (ISS) was launched in 1998 and was expected to remain in space through 2020. However its lifespan is at risk because of a crash ealier this month of a Russia Soyuz rocket.
Since the United States retired the Space Shuttles, the Russian Soyuz craft are the only game in town for supplying the ISS. That fleet is now grounded until the cause of the Soyuz failure is discovered. Should that be delayed past November, the ISS will have to be abandoned by its six astronauts. A NASA official indicated that this would put ISS at risk stating: “There is a greater risk of losing the ISS when it’s unmanned than if it were manned. The risk increase is not insignificant“.
Fifty years ago President John F. Kennedy committed the United States to putting man on the moon within the decade. In July 1969 Apollo 11 achieved that ambitious goal, a one-way trip of nearly 240,000 miles. Now, 42 years later the United States does not have even the capability of sending men to the ISS, a mere 220 miles from Earth.
In the fifty years since JFK set his ambitious goal, much has changed. Technology has advanced exponentially, which should have made space travel easier. However, America’s bureaucracy has also significantly grown. This inefficiency is not focused on the future, but is backward looking and focused on continuing the growth of the welfare state. Trillions have been wasted on failed social programs and the Country’s debt makes forward looking programs like space exploration unaffordable.
Posted in Space Program | Tagged: International Space Station, ISS, JFK, NASA, Riussian, Soyuz | 1 Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 21, 2011
The final space shuttle mission ended this week when Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. This final 5 million mile mission was the 135th for the shuttle program that spanned 30 years. Over its 26-year career, Atlantis flew 33 times for a total of 126 million miles and spent 307 days in space while circumnavigating the world nearly 5,000 times. Remarkable!
Atlantis’s final mission included taking 8,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station. America now is left without a space exploration vehicle and must hitch rides on other countries’ (mainly Russian) vehicles to fly into space. How sad!
It is instructive for us Boomers to use the sad current state of America’s space program to critique our failings as a generation. This example is a microcosm of the overall economic challenges America currently faces and our responsibilities for these challenges.
During the later part of the 1950’s and into early 1960’s, we were in the heat of the Cold War against the Evil Empire, the Soviet Union. It was evident then that space would play a crucial role in that war and the Greatest Generation did not shirk its reasonability. While expensive, that generation through its spokesman John Kennedy committed America to putting a man on the moon within ten years (video below), even though they did not then have the technical capability to do. They also committed to paying for this program without stealing from future generations.
While not initially foreseeable, the rewards from the space program were a bonanza to society that still pay huge dividends. Any product that uses microcircuits owes the current status of their advancement to the space program. Lasers, GPS, digital sound, camcorders, medical devises and much more are advanced to where they are today because of the technology developed for the space program. The fact that shuttles flew for thirty years and retired as the most advanced space vehicle available is telling.
With the retiring of the space shuttle program, the flaws of the Baby Boomer generation comes front and center. What is America’s current vision for space exploration? It is none existent mainly because we cannot afford one as we Boomers wasted money on self-indulgent programs. Worse still, we stole from future generations to allow us to live and retire better than we deserve, given our overall productivity.
While told the Greatest Generation and to reach for the stars, the Boomers’ current leader, Barack Obama, harps on why we cannot achieve. For NASA, he went so far as to include in its mission outreach to the Muslim world (see video below.). While JFK told the world that America was exceptional and would lead, Obama apologizes for America’s past failings and commits to following. While the Greatest Generation invested in hard programs like the space exploration with clearly defined goals, Obama wasted $800 billion on a Stimulus Program without defining goals. Worst yet, the Stimulus money was stolen from future generations.
While the folks in Washington and the mainstream media focus on the tactical issue of the debt ceiling, more strategic issues are be conveniently avoided. What is the real definition of “investment” when it comes to spending taxpayers’ money? Who benefited from the huge deficits that America has a run up? Who and how should these deficits be paid back? While we Boomers avoid addressing these questions, sooner or later younger generations will pursue them. That will be the start of challenging times between generations.
Posted in Baby Boomers, Space Program | Tagged: Atlantis, Baby Boomers, Cold War, International Space Station, JFK, John Kennedy, Kennedy Space Center, Moon, Muslim, NASA, Obama, shuttle, Space, Stimulus Package, The Greatest Generation | Leave a Comment »