President Obama’s plan for NASA and the United State’s aging space program has been the topic of a lot of criticism. The recent launch of a private rocket into orbit by the Commercial Space Flight Federation demonstrates that Obama’s plan to hand space vehicle development to the private sector has promise. Since the space shuttle went operational in 1982 there has been very little advancement in shuttle technology. Even now, with the current shuttle design scheduled for retirement upon the return of the space shuttle Atlantis from the International Space Station, no credible replacement is in place.
Such slow advancement is mind-boggling considering the level of technological advances that have come from the space program. Perhaps space shuttle development would have progressed faster if motivated by private competition. In a world where consumers can’t wait for the next best thing, technology companies are among the fastest evolving in the market place. The computer you buy tomorrow is obsolete in months. That kind of breakneck-pace development may have advanced the space program to unimaginable heights over the past 20 years. It is unfair to say disasters such as the Challenger and Columbia explosions could have been avoided. However, after the first mission that resulted in the loss of life more should have been done to advance shuttle technology.
But the real problem in space exploration is the narrow-minded approach our planet takes to the concept. Since the Space Race began between the US and Russia in the 50s, which led to launch of Sputnik and the Apollo Mission to the moon there has been an underlying military motif to the space program. Many critics fear Obama’s plan for the space program will surrender the United State’s control as a leader in space exploration to other countries, many of those fears surrounding the weaponization of space.
The dream is: humankind’s foray into space will also usher in a new era of co-operation, but that Star Trekesque society has yet to appear on the horizon. Space is truly the final frontier in human exploration (at least at our current level of perception and understanding). The challenge that space travel presents is vast and will never be achieved while countries continue to work on their own. Space travel must be a global endeavour, one that combine’s the resources of every nation on Earth. It’s an idyllic and perhaps naive notion but if anything can unite the world under one banner, it is the exploration of the stars.