In MISSING THE MARK By Marcia S. Smith July 23, 2009 SpacePolicyOnline.com. Ms. Smith wrote “Alternatively, if President Obama does not care enough about the space program to adequately fund it, let’s find that out now.” In Washington there is only one measure of caring that really matters: funding. Furthermore, while speculating about future funding is fun, it’s rarely accurate. What we do know is that in his first six months in office Obama has asked for, and received, billions in additional NASA funding. He cares.
While many in the space movement equate NASA with the human space program and exploration, during the campaign Obama made it clear that he wants additional funding for Earth observation, aeronautics and other parts of NASA that directly benefit the American people. Not surprisingly, that’s where a lot of the additional funding has gone.
A final point, the reason the human space flight program is in trouble is that is has the wrong goal: exploration. If you want knowledge about space, robots are cheaper and, for most things, better. We have 40 years of data on this. It’s a fact. Human exploration, as presently pursued, boils down to flags and footprints — which are not worth the money. There is only one really important goal for humans in space: settlement. It may be the only worthy goal, but it is of such vast, literally cosmic, importance that no other goal is needed. We are talking about the survival of not just civilization, not just humanity, but of life itself. Someday, some way, this planet will become inhabitable. It will probably be a long time, but right now we know how to settle the solar system. It will difficult, it will be expensive, but we know how to do it (see http://alglobus.net/NASAwork/papers/PathsToSpaceSettlement2009.pdf
for one approach). Carpe diem!