Thursday, December 24, 2009

Obama's Present to Space Settlement

Recently, President Obama met with the NASA Administrator to set the direction for the human space program. The results have not been officially announced, but it is widely reported that NASA will
  • not finish development of a government launcher to get astronauts to the International Space Station but, instead, purchase launch services from the private sector,
  • develop a new heavy-lift launcher (a vehicle capable to carrying large heavy things into orbit), and
  • send astronauts to Near Earth Objects, among other places.
This is all pretty mainstream space 'exploration' stuff. But.

In Paths to Space Settlement I argue that there are three things we should do to bring space settlement closer to reality:

Now consider this question: what are the most important things that government could do to promote these goals?
  • More than anything else, space solar power needs a heavy lift launcher to deliver huge satellites to orbit where they can gather energy for Earth.
  • More than anything else, space tourism needs a privately owned and operated launcher to take people into orbit, which is where the International Space Station is. Bigelow Aerospace has orbited two sub-sized test vehicles and is preparing to launch the Earth's first space hotel, but there is no private vehicle to take people there. Government vehicles, of course, should not be jetting wealthy tourists around!
  • More than anything else, people need to pay attention to Near Earth Objects to make sure one doesn't hit us. There's nothing like sending astronauts somewhere to get attention.

In other words, probably without meaning to, President Obama is preparing to set America on course to do almost exactly what is needed for space settlement.

Merry Christmas!