January 31st, 2010

Never mind the moon, a more important space race is off and running hard Crikey

At a populist level there may be much pain and anger in America over President Obama’s budget proposal to abandon the Constellation project to return US astronauts to the moon by 2020. But this is about much more than the symbolism and science of the original moon race of half a century ago. It goes way beyond the GWB plan to set up a permanent manned base on the moon as a way station to Mars, a proposal that was in its own right running into some severe criticism at various levels from its impact on science spending in general to the probability of the astronauts being killed by solar flare radiation long before making it to the red planet.
It is about American engagement with the race that China, Russia, Europe and India are already running hard in the space industry stakes. This is the industry of designing, making and selling both disposable and re-usable multi mission space freighters, the business of giant research and military assemblies in orbit or on the surface of accessible asteroids, the future convergence of prime orbital real estate with the distribution of communications bandwidths orders of magnitude larger than what the world uses today, the cleansing of near space from space junk, and, alas, locations from which directed energy weapons can cover almost half a world.
When the White House media management machine was leaking the abandon-the-moon message to reporters over the weekend it also had a sub text.