Friday, November 5, 2010

Science Fair

I can add little to what is written in Forbes' article "Saving NASA from the Obama Science Fair." According to the article Obama's legacy will be his rearrangement of NASA's priorities. Says the article:
The reason why, unfortunately, is that it may signal the end of the road for one of the greatest technological achievements of modern times, the U.S. human spaceflight program. In place of a plan crafted by his predecessor which might have one day carried astronauts to Mars, Mr. Obama has proposed a science fair that literally goes nowhere. The thousands of workers in NASA’s human spaceflight program now in danger of losing their jobs should have seen this coming.
I've written before about the cancellation of the manned space program in "No Americans in Space Anymore". That included NASA's new mission, ordered by president Obama to "reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering."

The Forbes article does not mention the Muslim thing, but does critique his proposed schedule for "researching" lifting vehicles (like the vehicles that were being built by the Constellation program he just canceled). The author refers to it as
a stretched-out schedule that would likely produce little new technology but deprive engineering teams and production workers of anything to do for the better part of a decade. Since I’m not a conspiracy theorist I won’t suggest that this element of the plan seems well-crafted to eliminate any political constituency for future deep space missions, but it sure takes a long time to make key decisions.
And perhaps that's the key to this decision. Or perhaps it's just the misguided notion that it is more important to fund entitlements and special interests than to promote economic growth and technological advancement. The same can be said of Obama's stem cell research policies. He took money away from adult stem cell programs that were already producing cures for diseases and spent the money on embryonic stem cell research that is not likely to work, but favors industries that heavily supported his candidacy.

Of course, there are other players in the space game. DARPA is looking into a "100 year starship". If you're curious, that's 100 years to design it, not 100 years for it to get to a star. The Tau Zero Foundation thinks it'll take more like 200 years. Of course, most of what's being proposed in this area today as "new ideas" are actually based on research done in the 1960s as offshoot of the Apollo program. Frankly, I can't get excited about the project. Not because it will be after I am dead, but because it is becoming yet another excuse for a eugenics program. I remember reading a good science fiction story about this in high school, but the title eludes me. If humans are "modified" to go to another star, have "humans" colonized space, or have we created aliens?


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