Let Skylab be a reminder of what happens to a neglected space station
Posted by John Keller
Everyone remember Skylab
? You know, that orbiting laboratory that NASA operated as America's first space station
from 1973 until, neglected, its orbit decayed in 1979 and Skylab burned up in the Earth's atmosphere before its remains crashed in the Southern Hemisphere -- some of it on Australia.
Such a waste.
Yes I know, there were REASONS that Skylab met such an ignominious end, most of them involving money, or the lack thereof. Skylab was a victim of NASA's success in the Apollo program
that landed men on the moon for the first time. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, 1969, Apollo 11
? Of course you remember all that.
What evolved from that summer day in 1969 when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon in the lunar module, within several years, was a collective yawn from the public after the first few moon missions. Everyone wondered what was next. Well what was next was the Skylab space station, but after the first moon landing even Skylab wasn't all that exciting anymore.
So for Skylab, funding ran short, and the orbiting lab was mothballed. The plan was for the yet-to-be-developed U.S. space shuttle
to refurbish Skylab and reinvigorate that space station program, which fallen into disuse.
The problem with that plan was the space shuttle didn't get developed in time to save Skylab. NASA couldn't boost it to a higher orbit, and the Earth's gravity eventually sucked the orbiting lab to its doom.
Now are you wondering why I brought this up? Well, indications are that we're ready to go through Skylab Part II. The International Space Station
, the multi-nation legacy of Skylab and an early Russian space station called Mir, is ready to be abandoned. Space experts are starting to fret that chances are increasing of losing the newest Space Station
The latest chapter began with the crash of a Russian rocket
that was supposed to resupply the Space Station recently due to malfunction, leaving the International Space Station short of food, water, fuel, and other essentials.
The Space Station's current crew most likely will have to leave it before another resupply mission can be attempted. Now where do we see this going? Is it sounding familiar?
I'm wondering if, due to federal budget cuts here and around the world, the International Space Station could share the same fate as Skylab. What a coincidence that would be; can't you see the scenario unfolding? Lack of money, lack of interest, lack of a way even to get to the orbiting lab.
I wish I didn't see it happening like this, but I do. Here's another delicious twist on dwindling government money. On 20 July 1969 I was a 10-year-old kid on vacation at McGrath State Beach
, a campground in California, listening on a transistor radio as Armstrong and Aldrin maneuvered the Apollo 11 lunar module to the lunar surface.
This campground where I listened to history in the making is scheduled to close permanently this fall. The reason: not enough money to operate it and fix a crucial sewer line.
More meaningless posturing over "automatic" cuts in the defense budget
Posted by John Keller
I don't know whether to be amused or frustrated over political rhetoric coming out of Washington about these so-called "automatic" cuts in the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) budget over the next decade if Congress doesn't either reduce projected spending or raise taxes.
First, talking about "required" defense budget cuts
right now anywhere beyond federal fiscal year 2013 is just silly, empty, political fluff. I get tired of beating this dead horse, but I'll say it again: Congress does whatever it wants to do on a year-by-year basis. There are NO "required" cuts in the future because every Congress acts on its own
, regardless of promises made in the past.
Nothing's binding; it's all just a bunch of talk. Rather shocking behavior to see from Washington, don't you think?
Look at the stories making the rounds over the past few days containing dire predictions of hurting our national defense due to potential "automatic cuts totaling an additional half a trillion dollars" ... "if Congress fails to enact additional deficit reduction legislation by the end of the year." You can read rhetoric like that in a story today in the Los Angeles Times
entitled "Pentagon says projected spending cuts could undermine security
Take a close look at these stories. They all contain caveats like "unless Congress decided to overturn the cuts." IF Congress were to overturn the cuts? They actually mean WHEN Congress overturns the cuts, as lawmakers, in their wisdom and calculation, undoubtedly will do.
They always do.
Every Congress acts on its own every federal fiscal year. They're bound by nothing in the past. They start every year out with a clean slate. Overturning commitments made in the past is just part of the routine, and can be predicted like the sun rising in the east.
So, with this in mind, every dire prediction you read about "automatic" defense cuts over the next 10 years is all just political theater performed to exert pressure for the perceived need to do something now. In this case the pressure being applied is about raising taxes, and the rhetoric is intended to hold the DOD budget hostage to make that happen.
The budget will be cut drastically in the future unless Congress enacts new taxes, we hear from Washington. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta trotted out a statement this week warning these deep cuts in the defense budget would hurt national security, and that the American people should accept higher taxes, rather than deep cuts in the defense budget.
It's right off the Obama Administration script. Panetta delivered his lines like the Democrat party pro he is. I remember years ago interviewing Panetta in his Capitol Hill office when he was a congressman representing Monterey, Calif. He was a skilled, experienced political infighter then, and he's a skilled, experienced political infighter today. Same party, same script, different job.
So, if you find yourself starting to get worked up over future military budget cuts based on what you're hearing out of Washington, just take a breath and remind yourself that this is only a movie.
Because that's all it is.