Thursday, April 28, 2011

Goodbye to the Flying Brick.. You served us well

“Going on a jet plane don’t know when I’ll be back again”

Not sure if that’s how that little ditty goes but if you are a fan of the NASA Shuttle program I’m sure many of you are singing it with hopes that President “O” was on that fictional plane.

That might be because those misguided hopefuls are misinformed about who killed the NASA manned space program.

Contrary to many beliefs, blogs, conspiracy theorists and Charles Krauthammer, it was not President “O” who killed the NASA Shuttle program, it was mismanagement by NASA and Congress. The only thing President “O” did was cut the dream of President “W’s” Constellation program to return to the Moon by 2020. There’s a huge difference there.

It only 5 years ago that then Administrator Michael Griffins had warned Congress that stretching the NASA Shuttle program was highly dangerous as the orbiters were wearing down. Remember people, by this time we were told the International Space Station was to be 6xs the size it currently is with malls and mini golf courses or at least something resembling the movie 2001:Space Odyssey and a more efficient Shuttle was to have been flying above taking us to the stars.

Congress had frozen all NASA budgets for the past 5 years, decreased by as much as $276 million annually. 2012’s budget got a slight increase to $18.5 billion, but the majority of that was for running the Shuttle program further than anticipated.

It costs $450 million for each Shuttle launch, so everyone break out your calculators and do the math from the budget and why there’s an average 4 launches yearly.

The Shuttle replacement is not due till 2014, if we’re lucky, we might see it by 2018. The idea of flying on Russian rockets is rather ironic considering that we not only beat the Russians in the Space, but just about everything sold in America is now of a foreign manufacturer.
Think about where the2012 Cadillac CTS built, more than likely, you wouldn’t think Singapore. How about that 2012 Buick Regal? That’s right, built in China. So as you complain about how American astronauts are getting into space, think about how you get to work, was it “Made in America?”

The Russians have been offering space flights to civilians for years, at a high cost. It was the American pipe dream to commercialize space and orbit. To fly people around the world, skipping across the atmosphere or docking on a Space station for a Disney vacation.
So now, because of our own Orbital Ignorance, we stalled those dreams and now will chip in $55 million a seat to ride along a Russian Soyuz rocket into space.

We can’t blame a President or any president for the demise of the NASA Shuttle program. We can blame government as a whole for its breakdown. As a matter of fact, we can blame ourselves as well.
When our space program began, everyone wanted to see Buck Rogers or Duck Dodgers. We fell in love with the newest American heroes of Glenn, Carpenter, Grisham, etc. They were our new warriors to battle in a new frontier against a common enemy. No wanted to live under a “Communist Moon.”

As years rolled by, and mission after mission took us further into space and eventually the Moon, the American audience lost interest in the destination of venture. The Moon again? Seriously, can we go somewhere else this time, like Mars?

Movies like Star Wars help regain interest in Space exploration. Little kids dreamed of Jawas and Death Stars, but fantasy could only take young minds so far. Just as our interests waned away from the powerful rockets that shock the Floridian earth, the true space machine arrived, the Shuttle.

Thoughts of landing strips on the Moon, cool lunar hovercrafts and vapor farms began to the thrill American mind again.

The Shuttle is a big beautiful complex machine. Robotic arms, satellites rolling out of the cargo bays, jetpacks to maneuver around space and so on kept kids interested in Space. But that was it, the notion of passenger Shuttles faded within three years.

As sad in saying it, it takes a tragedy for people to gain interest in many topics. Challenger’s demise brought Americans back to Earth. And we waited for a return.

When that return happened, the Media and fans camped out for weeks in advance to see American glory thunder to the heavens. And once again, our interest faded after a few more flights.

Seriously, how many experiments of the effects of weightlessness on Frog sperm can we endure?

Sure people will blame President “O” for more job loss when it is not needed, but isn’t that the case for all those against government waste and being of fiscal mind?

At its height during the time of Apollo NASA employed some 36,000 people from Florida, Texas and across the Western states. Now, NASA has around 18,000 people and has roughly 60 contracts. Of those numbers about 65% are dedicated to the Shuttle program and now that number will dwindle down further after April 29.

As we talk about government needing restructured, NASA is most definitely one of the sections to start. Some of our countries greatest minds are holes up in some coffee stained cubicle when they could be moved over to the Department of Energy to design the much needed reconstruction of the North East power grid. Remember the power grid that shut down half the North East about 6 or 7 years ago due to a summer heat blast that had people running air conditioners at 60 degrees.

The power grid that President “W” said needed to immediate repair and never touched and the same power grid President “O” said that projects in his Recovery Act should be worked on, and then lost in the shuffle.
How about moving some of those engineers and scientists over to National Transportation division and have them create a better asphalt mixture for Pennsylvania roads so potholes become obsolete.

How many critics are going to complain Friday, when they see President “O” and family standing nearby with Rep Gabrielle Gifford’s’ at Cape Canaveral watching her husband Capt Kelly fly the final Space shuttle mission into heavens? How many will complain about the job loss to that industry and the towns that depend on NASA’s wages?

Probably zero, because the Media will be busy drooling over the Royal Wedding and its participants.

What happened to America and its love for what was once considered the greatest achievement to mankind? Never mind, as Clint Eastwood said in the movie Space Cowboys “It’s just a flying brick anyway.”

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