The Orlando Sentinel, ("the Houston Chronicle of America's Space Coast"), easily the loudest voice of the Kennedy Space Center community, admits in an editorial today that central Florida may be the area most affected by NASA's projections of personnel scale-backs during the impending "Gap."
"It's painful but it's inevitable," the Sentinel concludes. "The Space Coast needs to start adapting now to a future without the shuttle."
That nasty "Gap," despite the early pronouncements and "best practices" of NASA administrator Mike Griffin, may turn out to be the longest period between U.S. manned spaceflights in thirty years, and may end up surpassing the interminably long period between Apollo-Soyuz in 1975 and the maiden flight of Columbia in 1981.
An economy like that surrounding Orlando, which easily saw through past Gaps with a robust and diverse economy, can afford to shed only a passing tear at the dismantling of Shuttle infrastructure, just off the Cocoa Beach mainland.
A lot of ink will be spilled in the election-year budget fight before the beginning of FY'09 in October, so it is difficult to tell the feinting oblique from the hail Mary pass, but, down deep, the consensus is NASA's problem is not any lack of Vision, but of funding.
Just "retiring" the Space Shuttle by 2010 will cost $500 million. In whatever form it finally takes, Constellation will not carry astronauts into space, NASA says, until 2015, and then, it is planned, service the International Space Station, which was not a part of the Vision until Griffin came on the scene, practical though it might be.
Is the Gap as true an opportunity for Commercial Space that it seems to be, or is a true and trustworthy Era of Globalistic Good Feelings underway? "Gap" or no gap, the United States, Canada, the U.K. and Japan, and elsewhere, is recruiting astronauts.
Contemplating previous Gaps in sustained American manned spaceflight is little help, apparently, because history can only tell us the 2015 plan has to be too optimistic.