Thursday, August 14, 2008

Obama Proposes Increased NASA Budget

Okay, so I don't usually talk about stories purely about NASA, because NASA is uninterested in space tourism. However, I'm making an exception here because, of course, it's the point at which space tourism and politics meet.

Barack Obama has recently announced his plans for the future of NASA. Well, not so much announced them as talked about them off-handedly as part of a response to a completely unrelated question. Still, I'm saying that counts. Here are some of Obama's comments:

"Here's what I'm committing to: Continue Constellation. We're going to close the gap (between the end of shuttle flight and the next program, Constellation). We may have additional shuttle flights."

"My commitment is to seamless transition, where we're utilizing the space station in an intelligent way, and we're preparing for the next generation of space travel."

"I don't want to give clear figures yet. I want to have a thorough evaluation of a combination of manned and unmanned missions, what kind of exploration would be the most appropriate, and I want the budget to follow the plan. I'd want to see the proposal first."

That's one thing I like about Obama; his tendency to do actual research before making a firm commitment. In all fairness, this can be seen as a politician trying to appear to make a promise without actually promising anything, but I've seen enough anecdotal evidence to convince me that Obama is serious when he makes comments such as this; he wants to make sure he does things right before he actually does them. And it's personally exciting to me that he's interested in closing the five-year gap between the shuttle and the Orion vehicle during which NASA won't have manned spaceflight capabilities. Also, another comment that Obama made represents a reversal of his previously stated interest in slighting the NASA budget and moving some of the money to education programs.

And as if to prove his interest in actually doing the research, a couple of days ago, Ian Bassin, one of Obama's Florida campaign officials, met with about two dozen aerospace executives and NASA contractors. They discussed technicalities concerning Obama's goals, such as job losses when the shuttle is retired and the role of private industry in space exploration (and normally, I'm not in favor of privatizing government interests, but some of these companies are advancing research a lot faster than NASA).

And as if not to be outdone, McCain has quietly updated his website over the past week to include goals for the space program similar to those of Obama. However, it should be noted that McCain was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation when the five-year gap was created.

Progress: 4.03%  Flight Time: 0:06:05

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