Monday, January 31, 2011

Is President Obama Against Manned Space Exploration?

Though currently busy deciding which truly unnecessary government expenditures to cut in order to rein-in on a runaway deficit, is there truth to the rumours that President Obama is against manned space exploration?

By: Ringo Bones

I’ve just heard President Obama's staunchest critics - both famous and the not-so - after finishing this year’s State-of-the-Nation Address. Quite a number of them voiced criticisms aimed at President Obama worded in a way that can be defined as no longer politically-correct in this day and age. But the question now remains, is President Obama really against manned space exploration?

It might be just an unfortunate coincidence that NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet is slated to be retired during President Obama's first term in office that's already mired in a weak economy and runaway deficit spending noting that the myriad of parts of the Space Shuttle can no longer guaranty the safety of its crew and reliability of operation. Not to mention that the Shuttle fleet might at the present austere fiscal environment of post-subprime mortgage crisis America be seen as an unnecessary government expense that is driving the US government’s runaway deficit.

Though a search for a better and low-operating-cost replacement for NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet is already under way – under the Obama administration’s watch I might add, it is worth noting that historically, the US Republican party – unlike their Democratic counterparts – has been largely anti-scientific research since the end of World War II.

Back in the mid-1950s when the XB-70 Valkyrie program was slated to replace the B-52 as a Mach 3-capable strategic heavy bomber, then Republican President “Ike” Eisenhower wanted the program scrapped because it was too expensive and might only be marginally better than the existing fleet of B-52s. Fortunately, when Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy got elected, the XB-70 program got a new lease of life as a platform for aviation and aerospace research. The XB-70 program only got cancelled when a tragic crash destroyed one of the three prototype planes.

So is President Obama – which is a Democrat lest you forget – really against manned space exploration? While the other camp – ie. The Republicans – obsessing over Creationism / Intelligent Design / Bible-based sham science to be taught in American schools, President Obama’s renewable energy programs that would grant America one more step to be independent from Arab crude are blocked by now-Republican majority congress. Not to mention other scientific programs that would eventually lead into a low-cost and more reliable replacement for NASA’s ageing Space Shuttle Fleet. President' Obama's plans to out-compete and out-innovate the People's Republic of China could might as well be shot-down by the US Republican party who unfortunately has been "cozy" with Mainland China since Bush senior was President.

The rumours behind President Obama’s disdain for America’s manned space exploration and intentions to scrap it are more likely to be politically motivated by the other camp and very likely to be untrue. After all, will our kids still be able to navigate all the way to the Moon if American schools start teaching that the Earth is the “center” of the Universe?

The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster – 25 Years On

Even though this tragic event never managed to halt America’s manned space exploration program, has the lessons learned from the Challenger disaster been heeded?

By: Ringo Bones

To us space exploration enthusiasts, January 28, 1986 seems like almost yesterday, and yet the date marking one of the tragic events in the history of America’s manned space exploration program as always has been observed in the usual low-key and solemn manner as the years go by. As the date marking the tragic event is now 25 years behind us, it has never seemed to dampen the folks at NASA on their drive to explore humanity’s final frontier.

At 73 seconds after lift-off, it wasn’t just the tenured crew members and schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe that had perished 25 years ago, the inner drive of space enthusiasts around the world almost perished along with Challenger’s crew. The launch of the Hubble Space Telescope was delayed to the near-detriment of the now-famed space-based telescope. The Galileo spacecraft – after a long launch delay – was launched without its famed powerful rocket boosters to be launched from low-Earth-orbit deemed too dangerous in the wake of the Challenger disaster. Instead was launched via gravity assist to a circuitous path that sent it to a detour to the planet Venus before going en route to Jupiter.

Though the faulty O-Rings on the SRBs have been deemed the primary culprits of the Challenger explosion, the weak links of NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet was not given due diligence when falling chunks of insulation foam from the main fuel tanks caused the tragic break-up during re-entry of the Space Shuttle Columbia back in February 2003. Has the lessons of the Challenger disaster been heeded?

As America’s Space Shuttle fleet is slated to be retired because it has become increasingly uneconomic to operate and the myriad parts needed to operate them are too complex to guarantee the safety of the crew, NASA’s final Shuttle flight could happen this year. Nonetheless, we live in hope that something better and cheaper will replace NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet because manned space exploration is just too costly for all mankind to be discontinued.