I haven't written about manned spaceflight because, well, it's getting very depressing. Consider these recent developments.
- Tommy Holloway, former manager of NASA's space station program, said to a Congressional committee, "I think depending totally on COTS would be a significant risk to the long-term viability of the station."
- As NASA told us how wonderfully refurbished the shuttle Endeavour was (while misspelling the name on a welcome banner at the Cape), they also revealed it had a leak in the crew cabin. Fortuntely they seem to have found it.
- Meanwhile, Energia was on the verge of bankruptcy, and Rocketplane Kistler was having continuing problems raising funding, preventing them from getting their mitts on all of that $207 million of taxpayer money NASA wants to give them.
- Finally, there was the tragic blast during a test of a SpaceShip Two engine, as the Burt Rutan-Richard Branson Virgin Galactic project continues to go nowhere.
Ironically, while our manned and commercial projects are sinking in the sunset, science projects continue to amaze and astound. The Mars Rovers set survival records every minute they continue to operate. They were built so well, it appears they will survive a planet-wide dust storm. New Horizons, passing by Jupiter on its way to Pluto, returned exciting data. Cassini turns up new discoveries in the Saturn system with every orbit. The Phoenix lander launch was a thing of beauty.
So, of course, our geniuses in Washington think science funding should be cut back to ensure there's enough money for COTS. While the science folks find ingenious ways to maximize their payloads and return more data, manned space flight is still using old techniques that got us to the money in 1969.
I can't help thinking that the recent dusting off of the Saturn launch vehicle that's been rusting away as a display piece may be a precursor to its being refitted to use for Orion.
Okay, that's a joke, but so is manned space flight, especially commercial space flight.
I've written over and over again about my concerns about so-called "free enterprise" "private sector" space projects. I've also worried over the "gee-whiz" promises of the Bush Administration to go to the moon and Mars (all nicely timed to occur long after Bush and friends are out of office) as pie-in-the-sky directionless objectives. I'm not going to flog that horse again. Besides, I don't have to.
"Successes" like those listed above speak for themselves.