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It is imperative for the future of NASA that you IMMEDIATELY call your congressman’s Washington office and ask they vote YES on S. 3729- NASA Authorization Act of 2010! If you’re in Nashville then your congressman is Jim Cooper and his # is 202-225-4311. The bill is up for a vote TODAY and the session ends this Friday, so if they don’t pass the bill now, NASA will have NO BUDGET for the next fiscal year, which also starts Friday. Phil Plait explains quite well on his blog why you should do this, but honestly, time is of the essence, please take my word for it: it is IMPERATIVE that this bill get passed! If you’re not in Nashville and read this in time, use this link to find you representative and CALL HIM/HER NOW.

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Energy and space science rant

September 2, 2010

Rant time.

In case you haven’t been paying attention to the news, there was ANOTHER FUCKING OIL RIG EXPLOSION IN THE GULF. Which is why I’m going to now rant about how terrible fossil fuels are. There is nothing good about them as an energy source. They are filthy/pollute the environment, they’re inefficient, and most importantly they are FINITE. We will run out of them. Thankfully this particular explosion doesn’t seem as though it will cause more oil to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, but they aren’t sure yet. I firmly believe that every nation and every energy company in the world should be focusing 100% of their efforts on ways to eliminate the use of fossil fuels as an energy source as FAST AS POSSIBLE. As long as the world is still relying on them, we are speeding straight down a highway that ends with world wars the likes of which have never been seen, and possibly the end of the human race. Our use of fossil fuels will either lead to so much pollution that the entire ecosystem will collapse, or they will become so scarce that the entire world will go to war fighting over them. The very survival of our species could rely on finding a way to 100% renewable energy. Whether it be from the sun, the wind, the ocean, whatever… 100% renewable and clean energy as soon as possible MUST be the absolute goal, and we must stop at nothing to get there. There are lots of other uses for oil than energy, and dare I say those are probably a necessary evil, at least for a while- virtually all plastic is made from it, along with a host of other things, but those pale in comparison to how much is used for energy. I have no doubt technology will get to a point where we don’t need oil for manufacturing either, but energy should be our #1 priority.

Now for my space rant:

A group of spaceflight’s elite sent a letter to Congress yesterday urging the House Science & Technology Committee to revamp its NASA authorization bill. The group, composed of former astronauts, space industry veterans, and former NASA officials, are asking Congress to make their version of the bill look more like the Senate version, which is much closer to Obama’s initial budget recommendation which was announced in February. Unfortunately middle TN’s own Bart Gordon is the head of said committee. Yo Bart- I expect more from you than this. Look at the facts- Obama is right! I’ve said this many times on here before and I’ll say it again: NASA needs to focus its efforts on exploration beyond low-earth orbit and the moon. The private spaceflight industry is more than capable of taking over the job of getting our astronauts to and from the International Space Station, and can be capable much sooner than NASA could using its currently-under-development Constellation Program. But they need the help of NASA in the form of $$$. Less $$$, mind you, than we would spend on Constellation. We will never see the kind of innovation and progress again that we saw from NASA in the 1960’s unless their goals are ambitious and lofty. Putting a man on an asteroid and eventually on Mars should be the new main goal of NASA’s manned spaceflight program, and exploring the moons of Jupiter and Saturn should be the main goal of the unmanned (robotic probe) programs. Those are the kind of ambitious goals that will bring back the kind of innovation and tenacity of the 1960’s. Only this time it will be scientifically driven, not driven by a race to get to the moon before the Russians.

Rant: over.

The Senate and the House of Representatives have both passed their own versions of Obama’s proposed budget for NASA. As I’ve mentioned here before, Obama’s plan to abandon the Constellation program and leave American access to low earth orbit in the hands of the private sector was met with a good bit of criticism, both from Republicans and Democrats alike. Though I supported (and still support) his initial plan, I figured we would end up with some sort of compromise in the end. Not surprisingly, that’s where we’re headed now that the Senate and House versions have come out. I don’t have the time nor the willpower to type out the gritty details of the differences, but in a nutshell, the Senate wants to extend the space shuttle by another mission or two, slash funding for commercial space companies in half, accelerate the development of a heavy-lift rocket based on current shuttle booster technology, and slash funding of research into advanced technologies. For a more detailed comparison between Obama’s plan and the Senate plan, check out this article on Universe Today.

The House plan, which was issue by the House Science and Technology Committee (chaired by TN’s own Bart Gordon) is even worse. They want to slash funding for development of commercial access to low earth orbit by MUCH more than the Senate version, and like the Senate they want to speed up development of a heavy-lift rocket. The biggest problem is that the House version essentially brings back Constellation. For more detailed info on the House version, check out this article on Space.com.

I’m by no means a politician or an economics expert, but I’m firm in my belief that if NASA keeps focusing money and effort on access to LEO/the ISS, then we are spinning our wheels and making no progress. NASA cannot keep funding and worrying about getting our astronauts to and from the ISS AND worry about/fund our exploration into the rest of the solar system at the same time.

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