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Diverging Paths

This story seems to put to rest the accusations from certain quarters that the ball has been dropped on the VSE…the Usual Suspects are at least forging ahead with PR campaigns to build public support for the new NASA goals. Which is a good thing, if you support the VSE, or just the idea of NASA actually doing something productive for a change (Moon landings or otherwise).

What verges on the bizarre in this piece, however, is the complete lack of acknowledgement of the emerging space startups. SpaceShipOne isn’t even mentioned. It is as if there is no path to space except the one being shown here by NASA and the aerospace giants. And what a path it is, with references to “new frontiers”, to exploration as “A Desire Written In The Human Heart”, and to “imagination” — the same slogans used for four decades to push the Saganian/Von Braunian vision. One wonders, reading this article, which vision for space exploration NASA sees.

The “exploration” part of the VSE should give us pause. Despite the marketing hooks intended to push the frontier sentimentality button, “exploration” suggests the familiar seeing, sampling, mapping, etc., and then leaving when all that work has been completed. The new commercial entities are talking about just the opposite — about developing space, which implies going there to stay rather than just to look around and take a few postcard pics to show the folks back home. Not “flags and footprints”, but “commerce and colonies”. They aren’t mired in the nostalgia for the 1960’s which positively oozes from this article.

So yes, it looks like NASA and the Usual Suspects are indeed pressing forward with the VSE. The problem is, how will they actually get anywhere if they insist on looking backwards as they do so?

4 comments to Diverging Paths

  • Carl Carlsson

    A very good point. I would argue that support for exploration, and especially for manned missions, comes in large part because we’d like to eventually have the opportunity to go there ourselves. 30+ years after Apollo, that dream has evaporated for most of us. If this time we are, indeed, “going there to stay”, then it certainly needs to be sold differently.

  • billg

    I suspect the people who buy the ads determine their content. If the startups want to tout themselves or the virtues of space colonization, then they can chip in.

    Building space infrastructure and “going there to stay” remains essential, but the startups show no sign of going anyplace anytime soon, other than Virgin’s dreams of using SS1 as a glorified vomit comet. As soon as a startup starts putting 100 tons into LEO or dropping people on the moon, I’ll take them seriously.It’s not government holding them back, it’s failure to convince anyone with an appropriately sized checkbook that there’s real money to be made out there.

  • Brian

    Andrew Beal disagrees with you, billg. But hey, he’s only one guy with an appropriately sized checkbook . . .

  • Except that Beal supposedly used the EELV subsidies as a fig leaf, allowing him to bail out when the going got rough (e.g: the environmental and political issues over launch sites).