Two different MO readers forwarded me the link to this SpaceDaily piece about a Congressional bill that is intended to clarify the “vision” of the US manned spaceflight program. It spells out, in general terms, the specific steps to be followed on the path that leads away from our planet.
“The real obstacle we face in overcoming the drift in the nation’s human space flight program is not technological and it’s not financial — it’s the lack of commitment to get started. We don’t need another national commission to come up with goals for human space flight beyond low Earth orbit,” [U.S. Rep. Nick] Lampson said. “What we need is a national commitment to carry out any one of the many worthy goals that have been articulated to date.”
The bill calls for
- A vehicle to carry people to L1, L2, and the moon within 8 years
- A vehicle to carry people to an earth-crossing asteroid within 10 years
- A vehicle to land on the moon and the establishment of a manned lunar outpost within 15 years
- A manned mission to Mars, including landing on the Red Planet and an outopost on one of the Martian moons, within 20 years
The bill also specifically spells out that all people need to be returned to earth. That’s important.
I think something along these lines is a step in the right direction. We went from no men in space to men on the moon in 8 years. We went from men on the moon to men hitching rides into space in the next 34. If all goes well we can get back to men into low orbit without help by next spring.
The manned mission to Jupiter depicted in 2001: A Space Odyssey wasn’t all that outlandish when it was written. We had over 30 years to get there. We didn’t fail because we couldn’t. We failed because we decided not to.
This is a bill that says we’ve changed our minds.