Obama Gives NASA Bold New Policy

President Obama paid a visit to the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday to outline his bold new vision for the future of NASA. Still reeling from the cancellation of the Constellation program and the loss of some sense of direction that resulted, NASA has been hoping for some good news as it grows painfully close to losing its primary human spaceflight option, the Space Shuttle. I reported back in February that I had mixed feelings about the cancellation, but my feelings now are alleviated somewhat as it is clear that the Obama administration is serious about the exploration of space.

At the forefront of the new policy is an increase in funding - a very, very much welcome $6 Billion increase above and beyond any increase to date. Although still a very small national expense compared to the likes of military spending, NASA has suffered through the curse of underfunding pretty much throughout its post Apollo years. This increase goes a long way to addressing that discrepancy. It paves the way for a new heavy lifting platform to be developed, for an increase in Earth observation and climate sciences, and to develop manned missions to destinations such as asteroids and Mars. Human spaceflight may take a little longer now, but it was given a shot in the arm for sure.

President Bush's Moon, Mars and Beyond incentive was a bold move at the time, but it couldn't have anticipated the recent rise in the involvement of private enterprise in space. Companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic were not even thought of and with government still the sole off-world accessor, it was a best guess effort that I applauded the president for. Times have changed and it is now time for NASA to go above and beyond the technologies that have tethered us to Low Earth Orbit for so long. This new initiative from the Obama administration puts exploration on the agenda again.

Critics are arguing about minutia, which I don't find surprising, especially given that there seems to be a penchant to just criticize Obama no matter what. To those critics I say, find the positives first before diving into the negative. That way you expose yourself to both sides of the argument and strengthen any criticism you may have by giving it a viable platform. Criticism for criticism sake is just moaning, and is so easily forgettable. Criticism for the right reasons is genuine and helpful. Just my 2 cents.

So, now that I have found the positives, its time for me to criticize. Losing the Moon is a bad idea. The Obama administration is certainly looking ahead, and this is in part fueled by private enterprise taking away a lot of the burden, but, and it's a big but - private enterprise is NOT going to the Moon. A presence on the Moon will be a huge boost to any plans to explore space, especially with the recent discovery of water there. Reaching an asteroid from the Moon will be a lot easier than from Earth, and the human sciences that we can achieve there will make the journey to Mars that much easier. Add to that the fact that other countries are looking at the Moon with renewed interest, and I think we have a bad decision.

All in all though, I am more pleased with this initiative than anything previous. Obama is a strong advocate of space exploration, and it shows.

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