Thursday, February 4, 2010

We just lost the Moon

Space. The Final Frontier.

These are the voyages of the Starship..... Terminated?

What if there had been no Apollo program? What if President Kennedy had not been assassinated; if his presidency had simply turned lackluster; if he had faltered in the polls and lost an election. What if the next president had cancelled the Apollo program for budgetary reasons?

Seems impossible to imagine now: a world without the infamous Apollo 8 Earthrise image that inspired the global environmentalism movement, and no Apollo 11 lunar landing heralding the greatness of the human spirit.

Those of us under-40 have no memory of the lunar landings. Our dreams for great space exploration lived in NASA’s Constellation program – our Return to the Moon, to Mars, and Beyond. Our dedication and focus continued to be inspired by Kennedy’s words: “We choose to go to the moon...and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

By now you’ve heard the news. President Obama’s proposed FY11 Budget terminates the NASA Constellation Program. When the aging Space Transportation System AKA Shuttle program ends later this year, the United States will be completely Earthbound, with no vehicle in active development in which to return to space and the Station.

We knew it was coming. We could see the writing on the walls. Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin may have introduced Orion as “Apollo-on-steroids” but around here it was not so affectionately called “Apollo-on-Food Stamps.” Constantly under-budgeted, the teams did their best in building the next heavy lifting rocket and crew exploration vehicle to supply the Station and offer us a return to the Moon and Mars.

The Augustine report released last fall addressed the crux of the issue with sobering words. "Space operations become all the more difficult when means do not match aspirations. Such is the case today. The human spaceflight program, in the opinion of this Committee, is at a tipping point where either additional funds must be provided or the exploration program first instituted by President Kennedy must be abandoned at least for the time being,"

Current NASA Administrator, Charlie Bolden, a Shuttle veteran, choked up while speaking to reporters on Tuesday, saying "To people who are working on these programs, this is like a death in the family," All week, Twitter conversations about the termination of Constellation capture the various emotions as workers experience the stages of grief, face uncertain futures and prepare for massive layoffs expected this summer.
  • Hubby said atmosphere at work today was like being at a funeral.

  • Co-worker told us his friend at KSC Fire Dept said they responded to 12 anxiety attacks after Constellation cancellation

  • 40k US jobs lost with Constellation program.
If you’re not very familiar with Constellation and the amazing progress that’s been made in the past five years, watch this video that being passed around via twitter by NASA supporters. (While the beginning is dramatic, it gets peppy at 1:28 and is worth watching the entire 8+ minutes, especially if you're into rockets.)

These are my neighbors. My friends. My colleagues. It affects every one of us here.

"We just lost the moon." - Tom Hanks (as Jim Lovell) Apollo 13.


  1. I was upset to hear the news of cuts to NASA too. I am just puzzled by the fact that you all are upset. Isn't private sector involvement in space exploration a fundamentally Republican value? I remember a few years back when Bush supported legislation for more government spending in NASA, the republicans were like chickens with their heads cut off, not knowing where to stand on the issue.

    Trust, I am sad that the Federal government seems to be abandoning the space program. But I am interested in why conservatives are angry about it. Is it just another thing to hate about Obama? Please, I am all ears.

  2. Hi Ben,

    I purposefully didn't write this blog post from a political perspective, but viewed it from my own personal connection working in partnership with NASA. I also don't find immediate fault with the current president or Congress on this issue. It wasn't entirely unexpected. New president=new vision.

    I can't say that I personally know a lot of conservatives that are angry about the cancellation for political reasons (personal reasons-yes; political-not really at this point.) Our US Rep. Pete Olson is fighting against it alongside his colleagues representing Kennedy & Marshall Space Flight Centers, primarily because of the potentially expansive negative economic impact it will have on our areas. Constellation ending at the same time as Shuttle doubles the number of contractors/engineers/personnel being laid off or shuffling for a new position.

    I could write a whole post justifying why (in my opinion) federal funds can and should be spent on NASA over other "entitlement" programs. (Primarily because it's one of the better US/private sector partnerships we have. Don't forget the technological impact, national defense angle, economic benefits, inspirational aspect, etc.)

    But last night, I was just thinking of how far we'd come & how this decision is going to affect my neighbors, my colleagues, and my own family.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. I am in total agreement with you. I think the space program is one of the fundamental greatnesses that sets the US above other countries. It shows that when we really want to do something, we put our heads together and make it happen. It is also a huge national security issue for us.

    I was just talking to my business partner today about personal freedoms and responsibility. I think that trying to bring everyone down to a certain standard does not better our society, but only hinders individual creativity. We all have certain fundamental human rights, that is not to say that everyone is equal in their intellectual ability. Socialism will not fly in this country, personal freedom will continue to prevail so long as it is the will of our people.

    That said, I do believe in pooling our money for certain things, such as the space program, police and firefighters, health care, etc... These become entitlement by popular demand and I agree with them. I don't, however, agree with federal dollars going toward paying for a city park to be "beautified" in small town Virginia. That is a municipal issue.

    God Bless!


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