On February 19th, I made a post regarding cuts to NASA’s budget that puts future human space flight missions in jeopardy
I had a few direct responses to the post, some for and some against, but I also came across this critique to the general sentiment of my post that made me second guess my original argument.
“NASA, we have a problem, why America is Lost in Space” by Brett Biddington, Adjunct Professor, School of Computer and Security Science at Edith Cowan University states in his article:
“Some commentators have already been fast to criticize the cuts, suggesting they are minimal relative to the buckets of money lavished on the US defence establishment (which include classified and unclassified space programs).”
He continues by arguing that NASA has lost focus on space exploration, lost touch with the public, and is in danger of becoming a cold war relic. This final point struck me. It rang true with many of the interviews we conducted with both active and retired personnel at NASA during the shooting of Chasing Atlantis. Many who started early into the program were ashamed that NASA astronauts were not being lifted from the globe by Chinese technology insinuating that America had lost some of its pride. From a country that has a space program which has always hitchhiked its astronauts into space, I cannot fully relate. Canada has always been proud to have any of our citizens or technology (Canadarm/Canadarm II) in orbit at all. I also just finished watching Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In his latest book, Space Chronicles, Tyson says that when the moon landing happened in 69, predictions were made suggesting that we would be on Mars by 1980. We’re still not there, and it doesn’t look like we are going any time soon. Why? Tyson says that with the pressure of the cold war over, the impetus on extra terrestrial travel was lost.
It would seem both authors are correct then. In the absence of a war, we have made no further progress to put humans elsewhere in our solar system and NASA, according to Biddington continues to exude habits formed during the cold war in terms of its reluctance to participate in international programs.
So what is the solution? More funding? Smarter allocation? Public engagement to create a new-found sense of relevancy? I am uncertain. However, I do echo Tyson’s concerns he shared on the Daily show, currently our civilization seems to be regressing. Reduced funding for education, technology development, a labored economic system. Perhaps a new frontier is exactly what we need right now.