It's been a long while since I've written a Sound Off article, but I have these thoughts boiling just under the surface really need to be voiced. So pardon my rant. In advance. As you know I don't do political commentary on this blog. Ever. But this is going to come pretty darn close.
These questions have been pooh-poohed by those in power who sought to kill the shuttle. "Simple solution," they said. "Our astronauts will just hitch rides to and from the ISS with our friends the Russians on one of their Progress spacefreighters until we have a new manned space program back in place, in ohhh, maybe four or five years. Or maybe a decade if we run into problems re-inventing the wheel. Or maybe never, if our economy continues this meltdown. But *shrug* no one really cares about the space program anyway.
Don't we? Shouldn't we?
Maybe you haven't heard the latest news?
Not a surprise, since most American news networks seem determined to bury it, because...you know...we wouldn't want to make anyone in power look bad for the devastating decisions they've made about our future.
That Russian Progress spacefreighter we were counting on? Yeah. Well, it had an accident. Surprised? Yeah, me too. Surprised and wondering why the news gave more coverage to Somebodyorother's wedding than something as monumental as a catastrophic failure of a spacecraft system we're really counting on. Fortunately, this flight wasn't manned, but Russia wants some time to investigate and re-evaluate after the mishap. Can't really blame them, can we? The USA certainly did the same after the accidents we suffered.
Meanwhile in the meager bits of news we're getting about this situation, the public is being assured the astronauts aboard the ISS have *plenty* of supplies to last them until the next flight which is now delayed until October. The flight which, incidently, is in question of being launched at all.
I wonder what our astronauts are thinking right now as they look down on the beautiful blue world that is Earth. Do they wonder if they're going to make it back home again?
We can still dream. But like the proverbial castle in the air, we've now burned down the foundation we'd made so much progress in building beneath it.
What about commercial space flight? Well, that's the key word, isn't it? Commercial. While I applaud pioneers like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, I don't see space flight as something that's going to be profit-generating for several generations. I also think they're going to be subjected to the same political whims and budget cuts NASA has suffered. I fear once the novelty wears off, most commercial endeavors are going to go the way of the buffalo. I hope I'm wrong, but that's not what my gut tells me.
Now it's your turn to sound off. What do you think?