“Space the final frontier….” I don’t think there is a person in this country if not the planet that does not recognize the beginning of this preamble. Most of us know the rest too. In 1966 Star Trek warped onto the TV screens all across America. Gene Roddenberry’s creation showed us a future of hope and enlightenment where all our races worked together to achieve a better life. True, back then it was just Science Fiction, but then a strange thing happened; Neil Armstrong stepped down off a small ladder and became the first human being to walk on another world. That “one small step for man” brought the whole world to a stop and for that brief moment we were all one people.
It’s strange how certain things mark a turning point in the path a civilization takes. The Apollo missions to the moon were a positive focal point for our world. It brought hope in a time of much despair and danger. People could now look up at the moon and know man had been there and was going back.
But NASA did their job too well. The missions went off flawlessly and became routine. As public interest dropped so did NASA’s budget. Instead of building and maintaining a base on the moon, NASA determined it would be cheaper to build an orbital space station. The last footprints of man on the moon was made in 1972, just three years after the first. Forty five years later the “International Space Station” is getting old and NASA as of yet has no plan to build another low orbit manned vehicle.
So with no shuttles to get our astronauts into space and no new lifting vehicles on the drawing board, how do our people get up to the space station? We’ll they are hitching a rides with the Russians. And you’d be wrong if you think the Russians are doing this out of the goodness of their heart. Rumor has it that the US is paying to the Russians more than 50 million dollars per astronaut per launch. Can we sink any lower? Actually we did. During the Obama Administration, the President stated that the moon will no longer be a priority for NASA. This effectively put NASA out of the Manned Space business and puts America into last place in the space race.
But all is not lost. Several independent, privately owned companies have picked up the gauntlet. The two biggest are Sir Richard Bransons Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk’s Space X. Both have lofty goals for manned space flight and if they have anything to say about it it will be happening a lot sooner than we think.
This article is just Part One of a four part series about our future in space. Next week we will be discussing Virgin Galactic. America’s future is in the stars and I was glad to hear that President Trump agrees. Hopefully with NASA’s help and experience back in the game we will be putting men and woman back in space and on the moon by the middle of the next decade.