Back in the 1960s Pan Am airlines established a waiting list for future flights to the moon, issuing free “First Moon Flights Club” membership cards to those who felt that holiday jaunts to the lunar surface were just round the corner. Over ninety thousand people signed up for their chance to follow in the foot steps of Armstrong and Aldrin. Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater and Walter Cronkite were among the first card-carrying members.
While space tourism has become a pricey reality and suborbital are visibly on the horizon one cannot help but wonder when the rest of our future visions will really come to pass given the recent shake up at NASA and the scraping of the whole Constellation program.
In today’s video feature we ask the questions – How do we get people into outer space and what are the reasons for going there? An astronaut describes her experiences in space, scientists explain rocket science, including propulsion, gravity and thrust, and engineers discuss the future of space travel. But, what direction will this future take. Recent events have made the future very blurry.
While viewing this admittedly dated, yet very informative, documentary one cannot help but recollect the numerous times the United States has altered its vision of what it intends to accomplish in space. In little over a decade we have seen the cancellation of many different programs that showed various degrees of promise. One case in point is the single stage to orbit Venturestar (X-33) program that never got to the launch pad let alone blast off into space. Setbacks in its development led to its cancellation as a federal program in 2001, but Lockheed Martin has continued further testing, and has had successes as recently as 2009. So the Venturestar program is still alive and well and in the hands of private enterprise. Is this the future of space travel? One can only wait and see what the future holds.
In February 2010 we saw the cancellation of the Ares, the Orion and our vision of returning to the Moon within the next decade. So one cannot help but wonder where we go from here. The dream of space exploration is alive and well. But, as of yet we have not decided how we want this vision to materialize.
My hope is that we can choose a space policy that focuses the energies of the best and brightest people in government, industry and academia directed towards developing a sustainable space program with the clear objective of developing the mineral and energy resources of cis-lunar space.
We can no longer remain a nation held captive by our political and ideological foes by solely relying on strategic mineral and energy resources controlled by nations and despotic regimes that neither share our democratic values nor our love for individual human liberty. A common definition of a strategic mineral is a mineral that would be needed to supply the military, industrial, and essential civilian needs of the United States during a national emergency. Furthermore, they are not found or produced in the United States in sufficient quantities to meet this need. We can no longer allow ourselves to remain bound by this status quo.
And, by choosing to return to the Moon we will have taken the first step in attaining these goals. We must focus our efforts towards utilizing the mineral resources of the moon and near earth asteroids, exploiting space based solar power and committing our nation to the settlement of space. Only such a long term roadmap can ensure the security of our nation and its allies.
I firmly believe that NASA in partnership with private enterprise will have a great role to play in such a future well into the next century.
Understanding – Space Travel