Spaced Out

Oct 22, 2008 1:10pm

It will be 40 years next summer since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, but there’s still a space race on.  The major players, and their motives, of course, have changed since the Cold-War days: it’s now China, Japan, India and other Asian countries trying to show off their technology.  If the Indians can send a spacecraft into lunar orbit, the implication is that they can also sell you a pretty decent laptop.  Do you care?  Yeah, if your job’s on the line.  Which is why I wasn’t terribly surprised by an e-mail this morning from the Obama campaign: "With India’s launch of its first unmanned lunar spacecraft following closely on the heels of China’s first spacewalk, we are reminded just how urgently the United States must revitalize its space program if we are to remain the undisputed leader in space, science, and technology. "My comprehensive plan to revitalize the space program and close the gap between the Space Shuttle’s retirement and its next-generation replacement includes $2 billion more for NASA — but more money alone is not enough.  We must not only retain our space workforce so that we don’t let other countries surpass our technical capabilities; we must train new scientists and engineers for the next generation.  My comprehensive space policy focuses on reaching new frontiers through human space exploration, tapping the ingenuity of our commercial space entrepreneurs, fostering a broad research agenda to break new ground on the world’s leading scientific discoveries, and engaging students through educational programs that excite them about space and science."  In the interest of equal time, you can find the McCain-Palin position HERE. Where are the candidates really?  Take a look at what Rand Simberg wrote in Popular Mechanics back in April (you can skip the now-dated parts about Sen. Clinton). With a troubled economy, of course, Obama has not made space a priority; earlier in the year he proposed paying for his education program (see the very last page) by delaying the Constellation Program (the space shuttle’s replacement) for five years.  But a good number of people working on Constellation live in electorally-valuable Florida. (Computer-generated artist’s conception of Ares I launch from NASA/MSFC.)

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