A look to the Barak Obama's Space Policy

an interview by A.Autino to Charles Radley

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I - ISS

II- COMPETITION
III - ORION
IV - URGENCY
V - DESTINY OF NASA
VI - PUBLIC OPINION

 

 

Follow some questions to which Europeans cannot find answers alone, but need some informed people living in our beloved America (first Country who brought men to the Moon, 40 years ago).

Charles Radley joined recently the Space Renaissance Initiative, and quickly became determinant for its growth and success! 

He is an old friend of Michael Martin-Smith and Patrick Collins. He was born and raised in UK and Iraq. Lived in Germany for 3 years. Now he has lived in USA for over 20 years, became a US citizen, and have voted in almost every election. He gladly accepted to answer to our questions.

[I - ISS] - ISS is made by several parts that can be carried in orbit only by the space shuttle. Soyuz cannot carry such parts. Shuttles are foreseen to fly only until 2010. What will be of the ISS?

The plan is that the remaining Shuttle flights will be enough to complete ISS.

Here is the Shuttle manifest: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/iss_manifest.html 

This is the final shuttle flight:

[II- COMPETITION] - China is going to space by its own means. Will USA, the first space faring Country, rent the Russian Soyuz in the next future?

This is a controversial situation.

Yes, USA will rent Soyuz from Russia and that will be the only USA human carrying vehicle from 2010 until 2015. The USA was not the first spacefaring country. The first country to send an object into space was Germany in 1942 (suborbital A4 test). The first country to put a satellite into orbit was USSR (1957).

[III - ORION] - several commentators say that the project includes many not-feasible items. To say one, Orion is supposed to fly a manned space-craft on a space shuttle auxiliary booster, plus a second stage (Atlas 5). Such a solution would be unsteady, as propulsion. Is NASA going quickly against a wall? Are they trying another time to demonstrate (as with the past X33 project), that human industrial activities in space are not feasible, and that we should keep on giving them money, just to play with space and entertain us with nice toys on Mars?

I do not know much about the technical design of the Orion spacecraft or the Ares rocket family.
Personally I would redirect NASA to develop solar power satellites. I am not interested in missions to Mars. The Orion mission to the Moon could be very useful to provide base for materials to built solar power satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit.

But so far it looks like NASA is obsessed with Mars as a PR gimmick. So far, Japan and ESA have made more progress with SP than USA. ESA recently published a very nice SPS video on Youtube:

I invite you each to collaborate with me to explain to decision makers everywhere that space solar power is our top priority in space. I am Vice President of the Moon Society, and I am pleased to report that the Moon Society wholeheartedly supports the concept of space solar power.

[IV - URGENCY] - Also in consideration of the current devastating crisis of the closed world philosophies and economy, the opening of the high frontier is urgent as it never was before. We could come, in few years, to have nomore means to win the gravitational well and lower the cost to orbit. NASA is making Apollo 2, and Russians and Chineses are flying with a 40 years old technology. Is anybody working to XXI Century space vehicles? Should we go and ask mr. Putin to think about the problem?

That is an interesting idea. Russia is an oil based economy, and has no problems regarding energy, so they are probably not interested in space solar power or off-world resources. They have enormous reserves of all kinds of resources within their borders.

But Russia is very creative. They were willing to allow a commercial electro-dynamic tether to operate on the Mir space station, until the USA government blocked the idea and instead destroyed the Mir station. Technologies such as tethers are wonderful methods to reduce cost of space operations.

[V - DESTINY OF NASA] - Barack Obama said that he wanted to cut the NASA's balance in order to finance the kindergarten. Michael Martin-Smith said that we should wait, becouse surely he will have advisors that will make teh new administration space policy less raw... Now what is the envisaged US space policy? Inside the space community, many think that agencies should better be dismantled, and their billionair budegts dedicated to real space technological projects. But my personal fear is that, in case NASA would be ceased, its budegt will be given to something else (banks?), and not to space activities, and western world would be prived of the space program (watever critics we can move to it). What is the feeling, about NASA?

Well, here is a nice explanation from my friend Marianne Dyson, in Houston:

Obama has changed his plans for NASA drastically throughout the campaign. He started out saying he would take the money from Constellation and put it into education (as if that would make any difference to education!). Then he backed away from that as the race with Clinton heated up in the "space" states. At the International Space Development Conference in DC in May, his campaign rep didn't even know what ITAR was. But after he was nominated, the former Clinton space campaign advisor (Lori Garver, formerly the executive director of NSS and a NASA AA), moved to Obama's campaign. So finally, his space policy matches McCain's in terms of supporting NASA. The two candidates are fighting over Florida where space is vitally important, so have both gone on record now supporting NASA. Congress passed the biggest budget for NASA ever last week: 20.2 billion, sending a strong message to the next president that space is important. 

So I don't think Obama will make any significant changes to NASA programs in the near future. However, there is some concern that he will not support a long-term presence on the Moon or Mars. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle prior to his nomination, he expressed the opinion that human spaceflight was not worth its expense. If he becomes president, hopefully, he will come to see the long-term benefits to be gained from space resources (such as space-based solar power!) and we won't have to rely on Congress to keep NASA lunar plans funded. 

Marianne, former NASA flight controller.

Also this:

Statement from Barack Obama on India's Lunar Launch 

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.

As a child, I remember sitting on my grandfather's shoulders and watching the Apollo astronauts return from a splashdown to Hickam Air
Force Base, dreaming of where they had been. It inspired my imagination and gave me confidence in what we as Americans could achieve. It's time for a space program that inspires our children again. As President, I will lead our space program boldly into the 21st Century - so when my daughters, and all our children, look up to the skies, they see Americans leading the way into the deepest reaches of our solar system.

[VI - PUBLIC OPINION] - In the current financial crisis, does people see the Moon and geo-lunar space industrialization and space tourism as a possible industrial development alternative? We know that nothing else can replace the car and the aeronautical industries. Therefore nothing else than the space revolution can turn again the indicator of economy development to the plus sign. Does the people feel such simple concept? Is there a lack of communication? Is people thinking about investing their money in more worth enterprises, for a true development?

There is definitely a lack of communication. Most people still do not understand the extent of the wealth of resources available from space and on the Moon. We must continue to work in this area.

The most exciting recent development for me is this one from Colonel Coyote Smith, reporting that the USA Department of Defense Eisenhower Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, is developing a solar power demonstrator to fly in space. Here are the details from his blog:

http://spacesolarpower.wordpress.com/2008/10/13/time-to-build-a-first-look-at-the-initial-plan/

I invite you to collaborate with me on this effort.

Best regards,

Charles F. Radley

After writing this interview, in the mounth of December 2008, several organizations and personalities of the pro-space movement, among which Charlese Radley, united with the Space Renaissance Initiative, in order to build up a great world wide forum, to be held just before the next G20, in the same place where G20 will be held. 

[011.CR.TDF.2008 - 22.12.2008]