The Mil & Aero Blog
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
  Good timing for human space flight

Posted by John McHale

The successful repair and upgrade of the Hubble Space Telescope by the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis was good timing for NASA's human space flight programs.

Earlier this month President Obama announced the formation of an independent review of planned U.S. human space flight activities and NASA's 2010 budget request was released.

According to an administration release the review will be conducted by panel of experts led by Norman Augustine, the former chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin. The "Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans" is to examine ongoing and planned NASA "development activities, as well as potential alternatives, and present options for advancing a safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable human space flight program in the years following space shuttle retirement."

NASA’s 2010 budget request was for $18.686 billion, a "five percent increase from the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act," according to a statement by acting NASA Administrator Christopher Scolese. He adds that the budget supports the "goal of returning Americans to the moon and exploring other destinations."

Currently the request calls for $3.963 billion for exploration compared to $3.505 in the 2009 request. According to NASA the Obama Administration will resubmit the exploration request after the review is complete.

I'm heartened to see the new administration giving human space flight so much attention. In recent years manned space operations have taken a back seat to robotic, unmanned exploration and understandably so after the loss of one shuttle and its crew and mishaps to other spacecraft in the ageing fleet.

One of my colleagues has written that we should just stick to robots because they are cheaper.

I disagree. I think we need both. Manned space programs are what make the public interested which in turn persuades Congress to release more dollars for spaceflight. The continued success of the Chinese space program may also prove persuasive, especially if they get to the Moon before we get back there...

The previous administration had mantra of to the "Moon, Mars and Beyond" which referenced the formation of the Constellation program and planning for the Orion spacecraft, which will replace the Space Shuttle. It appears on the surface that the current crew in charge in Washington has similar goals.

According to a story in USA Today, the administration is even considering a former astronaut to head NASA -- retired Marine Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden.

All signs point to continued human exploration of space so for now let's make sure the crew of Atlantis get home safely.
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