Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Reaching for the Stars

Meredith C. Baker
The Harvard Crimson

This past summer, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The first lunar landing was an extraordinarily complex, highly technical feat of human engineering and bravery, and while we remember it proudly, it is more than a little strange to celebrate a feat that we could do 40 years ago but cannot do today.

Although rarely able to travel out of Earth’s orbit, the space program in the U.S. has been highly active over the past few decades. The space shuttle has flown nearly 130 flights, and the International Space Station is entering its tenth year of operation. However, last week, President Obama cancelled the National Aeronautics and Space Administration program to build a next generation spacecraft to travel to the International Space Station and the moon, essentially “grounding” our human space flight program There are only four more scheduled space shuttle flights remaining. Following this, American astronauts will rely on Russian rockets to travel to the space station and back.

While the proposed 2011 budget allocates funds to incentivize private enterprises to design and build human-rated rockets and spacecraft, none have been tested and deemed ready for flight. Expanding access to space and engaging private enterprise is a worthy project, but this untested path should not be America’s only means of sending humans to space. There are also no funds to support a vision for space travel beyond the five to ten years of “life” left in the ISS. We should reconsider whether or not we want to forfeit America’s leadership in space exploration.

Read the Editorial, HERE.

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