Flight is a primordial desire for all humans. Intrinsically denied to us, we’ve watched the skies. Until 200 years ago, we were almost completely Earth-bound. It’s just in the past couple of generations that we’ve been able to get out there and see what birds have known for millennia. We’ve surpassed the bounds of our planet and reached out into space. They’ve been tenuous adventures, but everyone agrees that we’ve passed a major milestone in the development of Humankind.
So, why does the Bush administration continue to support space research in rhetoric, but shortchange the agency’s funding? NASA has been caught at a crossroads for almost a decade. We realize the need to transition to a new launch vehicle. You can’t PM the shuttle, because it’s still spinning LPs. Being obsolete earns you an honored place in the Smithsonian, not an active schedule on the launch pad. There’s been great fanfares over the new launch vehicle program. Al Gore stood in front of an impressive entry. George Bush gave some interesting speeches about Mars. When it comes time to write the checks, every pen has run out of ink. NASA has done remarkably well with the limited funding they get. Smaller, Cheaper, Faster has been a success. A lot of good science has come out of the probes we’re launching. The probe strategy comes at the expense of Human flight missions. The shuttle’s maintenance costs are spiraling upwards while research and development of a viable replacement languishes.
The first new vehicle in 25 years to breach the boundary of space was a private venture. It took the combined genius and wealth of Burt Rutan and Paul Allen to do it. They’ve accomplished remarkable things, and I’m sure they’ll continue in the future. There is a commitment from the government, though, that is far past due. Trying to run NASA, a research agency, like a corporation, has just led to a failing agency. Congress complains about inefficiencies in NASA, but refuses to fund the agency at a level that would allow it to function properly.
I would like to ask all members of Congress to fully fund NASA. They explore the fundamental secrets of our Universe. No other society in history has had the ability to push the boundaries of human experience like the USA. We should be encouraging that kind of exploration.