The Space Frontier Foundation’s Chairman of the Board, in his ongoing effort to reach out tothe world beyond the beltway and the space aware, published a shorter version or the following in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The shorter version is available at cleveland.com/opinion.
The Kennedy Legacy in Space
By Bob WerbA significant element of the Kennedy legacy is under attack—and frankly, it’s about time!When President Kennedy declared in 1962 that “We choose to go to the moon in this decade,”hecould not possibly have known that our desire to recapture the lost glories of the Apollo yearswould put us in a holding pattern, repeating the same mistakes over and over, like a brokenrecord, well into the 21
century. His speech was followed by seven years of breakthroughs— and 40 years of decline.It’s not hard to understand the reasons why. A government space program whose purpose was to beat the Soviet Union was designed with a monomaniacal focus on just one goal: to put a man onthe Moon and return him safely to earth. Broader goals, like economic development or costsaving technologies, were placed on hold, waiting for another day. We’re still waiting.The problems of America’s nostalgia driven civil space efforts reached complete absurdity when36 years after Neil Armstrong took a giant leap for all mankind a NASA Administrator called thelatest viewgraph plan to return to the Moon “Apollo on Steroids.” The idea being that we can break the cycle of failure by throwing a pile of tax dollars at the problem, like an ageing athletecraving one more season of glory, regardless of the longer term side effects to his health andreputation.Fortunately, “government space” isn’t the whole story. In recent years a private movement called“NewSpace” has quietly emerged. Already NewSpace companies have sold tour packages to theInternational Space Station [Space Adventures], flown a spaceplane into space twice in less thantwo weeks [Scaled Composites
], developed a new expendable rocket [SpaceX], and flown theworld’s first inflatable habitat in space [Bigelow].Within a few years, NewSpace companies will be taking customers on suborbital flights, building the best spacesuits in the world, breaking lighter-than-air altitude records, landingrovers on the moon, launching large space habitats, and best of all, making buckets of money inthe process.Last spring President Obama created a committee of ten experienced space hands, led by Norman Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin, and asked them to rethink thegovernment’s human spaceflight efforts.