http://tinyurl.com/q294cls

http://tinyurl.com/q294cls

A few days ago, on December 10, 2014, reporting on the project of SLS rocket (one of the trio of NASA’s related programs for human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit), an article published by Washington Post cited the Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher who declared „it could cost at least $10 billion to develop this ‘monstrous rocket project’. Even then, he said, it ‘won’t have a real mission until we go to Mars, which could be two decades or three decades from now, depending on if we can ever get over the technological hurdles we haven’t gotten over yet’”[1].

At this very moment, NASA’s three programs for human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit are: SLS - the launch vehicle, Orion - the capsule and GSDO - the supporting ground systems. The declaration cited above has been made five days after the successful first test flight of Orion, which took place on December 5, 2014. Orion has been launched aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket, orbited two times the Earth on a 4.5 hour flight, reached a peak altitude of 5,800 km above Earth (more than 15 times the International Space Station's orbital altitude) and plummeted through the atmosphere, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. It was „the first mission since Apollo to carry a spacecraft built for humans to deep space”[2].

Carefully analyzing NASA’s three programs for human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported on December 10, 2014, that they “are pursuing inconsistent and unrealistic schedule goals and that the Orion program is facing significant technical and funding issues that may affect NASA’s overall schedule for its human exploration programs”[3]. Another GAO’s analysis showed in 2013 that NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope project „identified the need for an additional $1.4 billion from fiscal years 2012 through 2017”[4].

Even if the briefly presented financial issues and problems cited above are important, NASA continues reporting successful operations. In the statement published on March 26, 1958 by the Presidential Science Advisory Committee, the advancement by the U.S. of space technology was regarded as being a major embodiment of „the compelling urge of man to explore and to discover, the thrust of curiosity that leads men to try to go where no one has gone before”[5]. In our opinion, by means of the three ongoing related programs for human space exploration, NASA is demonstrating a remarkable persistence in pursuing the objectives established in 1958, almost six decades ago. But we are not at all speaking only about “the thrust of curiosity” or strictly about science as a strictly intellectual and technological effort. Space programs, together with many other technologically very advanced programs of all sorts, are a really vital part of the national power of the U.S.

 

[1] Christian DAVENPORT, „After historic Orion flight, NASA still faces challenges, GAO says”, the Washington Post, December 10, 2014, at the Internet address http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/after-historic-orion-flight-nasa-still-faces-challenges-gao-says/2014/12/10/f0620bb6-809d-11e4-9f38-95a187e4c1f7_story.html

[2] Steven SICELOFF, „Successful Launch of Orion Heralds First Step on Journey to Mars”, NASA, December 5, 2014, at the Internet address http://www.nasa.gov/content/successful-launch-of-orion-heralds-first-step-on-journey-to-mars/#.VIwyDtKsV1Z

[3] United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), Statement of Cristina T. Chaplain, Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, „NASA. Human Space Exploration Programs Face Challenges”, page 3, , December 10, 2014, at the Internet address http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667350.pdf

[4] United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), „NASA. Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects”, April 2013, page 1, at the Internet address http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653866.pdf

[5] President's Science Advisory Committee, "Introduction to Outer Space", March 26, 1958, pp. 1-2, at the Internet address http://history.nasa.gov/sputnik/16.html

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