SpaceX Falcon 9 Strange Reactions

I was alerted by Phil Plait's post at BadAstronomy.com to some very strange reactions by politicians to the successful Falcon 9 launch last week by private rocket company SpaceX. Now, I'm no political analyst but when a politician reveals that they can be an air-head in their elected capacity, I get very concerned. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R) of Texas made this bizarre statement after the launch:

This first successful test flight of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is a belated sign that efforts to develop modest commercial space cargo capabilities are showing some promising signs. While this test flight was important, the program to demonstrate commercial cargo and crew transport capabilities, which I support, was intended to enhance not replace NASA’s own proven abilities to deliver critical cargo and humans to low Earth orbit. Make no mistake, even this modest success is more than a year behind schedule, and the project deadlines of other private space companies continue to slip as well. This test does not change the fact that commercial space programs are not ready to close the gap in human spaceflight if the space shuttle is retired this year with no proven replacement capability and the Constellation program is simultaneously cancelled as the President proposes.

So, why does that make her an air-head then?
Try the following exercise - summarize the statement. I do this all the time to get at the actual content of a statement so I can report it from a SpaceHead perspective. Here's my initial summary:

1. Launch was a success, so commercial space efforts look promising.
2. She supports efforts to enhance, but not replace NASA's capability.
3. The launch was delayed over a year, so commercial space efforts do not look promising.
4. Despite the success there will still be a gap in US space access after the Shuttles retire, which is all President Obama's fault.

Most of the time I get a useful summary that gives me enough information to give a feel for what a politician said, but in this case all I can report is:- Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R) of Texas said of the launch: Commercial space efforts look both promising and not promising. Obama sucks.

Not very helpful, and most definitely a sign of air in the head.

So, enough of the complaining then!
Alright. All that being said, perhaps I should correct rather than critique. She is indeed correct that this successful launch is a promising sign. However, space flight is a very difficult thing, and every single project in its entire history has been delayed. A one year delay is actually shorter than the average, so that in itself is even more promising.

The gap in US access to space is absolutely without question outside the control of the Obama administration. Whilst I understand the need for Republican politicians to gather as much political ammunition as they can to garnish their current denial-based opposition to the Obama presidency, making stuff up just plainly and simply doesn't count. President George W. Bush initiated the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet and set the deadline of 2010 to complete it. Considering that a viable replacement access to space would take upwards of 10 years to develop and implement, it would have been more prudent for President Bush to begin that process long before retiring the Shuttle Fleet if he wanted to avoid a gap in access. President Obama has been in office for less than two years, and to try to pin any semblance of blame on his administration is to be air-headed - oops, I mean it is politically dishonest.

So, haven't you got anything positive to say about this?
Yes, the Falcon 9 launch by SpaceX was a terrific effort and a milestone achievement in commercial space travel. This really does change everything, and from now on we have a viable alternative to government based space exploration - something I have been advocating for a very long time. Political point scoring and attempts to revise history are meaningless bumps in the road to our becoming a space-faring species. SpaceX truly made a giant leap with this launch. It would be helpful for politics to do the same.

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