The Space Program Runs Into the New Austerity

Space exploration has had to take a backseat--and a serious overhaul in funding--because we have spent ourselves into oblivion. If you know anything at all about research and development, the innovation of space flight and space research, then you know that we are simply eating the seed corn at this point. Tomorrow's innovations won't happen simply because we are not going forward with space exploration and research. All of the technology we use to communicate right now--the satellites being just the tip of the iceberg--has been helped in some way by space research. 

That's going away now, and, with it, the possibility of capturing the imagination of the next wave of people who are going to be born in the next few years and won't have anything meaningful to inspire them, in terms of space exploration and going to places like Mars and beyond. There's a very real possibility that manned spaceflight itself might end altogether in the next few decades.

There is a new administration in Washington, trying to pick up the pieces of the debacle left by the last administration, and it is trying to come to terms with austerity and reality. Too bad there isn't anyone working in that administration who can do a better job than this man, whose tears are a little much to take:

It's Charlie Bolden's job to make people get it - to make them understand. So, how do you think he is doing? You may well have seen some of his Congressional appearances, and the speeches he's given of late.

There are those who think he's just sold the vision badly; there are others who think he's got the impossible sell.

Charlie Bolden, himself, says he was insufficiently prepared to roll out and explain the president's plan. He's made that confession on a number of occasions now and repeats it in the BBC interview with our Washington correspondent Philippa Thomas.

What do you make of his very public displays of emotion? We've seen Charlie Bolden swallow hard several times as he discusses the end of the shuttle. In our interview, the passion overwhelms him for a few moments. The tears flow:

"It is very difficult... it's really difficult. It's a programme that has gone for 30 years and it's been incredible. And you know during the programme I've unfortunately had an opportunity to watch or witness the loss of two vehicles, but most importantly 14 people. On the first crew that we lost on the Challenger, they were very, very, very, very close friends because I had trained with them. Mike Smith on the crew I had been in school with. So they were really close friends. It was a flight so close on the heels of my first flight; I had landed just 10 days prior to Challenger."
And speaking of the shuttle workers in Florida, he adds: 
"Shuttle becomes like a person to them, and so they're very attached to them and as each vehicle flies its last flight, they have a really difficult time. Unless you've been in this programme, people don't understand that; and they think we're crazy."

I urge you to remember that this is virtually the end of the space program, and we will never know what breakthroughs in science, medicine, communications, or research we will now never realize or see come to fruition. At exactly the point in our civilization when we need greener technologies and smarter use of our dwindling resources, we are killing the very thing that delivers untold riches in scientific solutions and discoveries.

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