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Bring NASA back down to Earth

Editorial Cartoon by Michael Escañuelas

Editorial Cartoon by Michael Escañuelas

When was the last time you got excited over something involving space or space exploration? It seems that as we go further into the future, the less we become excited about all those futuristic promises we were fed as children.

Within the past couple weeks several announcements have been made about the progress of NASA and their plans for space exploration. The Obama administration called for a review of the program, titled Constellation, citing issues with spending. Considering we are not going to start sending people to the moon for colonization any time soon, the results from the review prove to be disappointing. Although no final conclusions have been made, problems with budgets and spending have already begun to plague the plan.

The current proposal, which was conducted in 2005, is to send a group to the Moon to establish a lunar base by the year 2020. The mission is proposed to be similar to a standard Apollo mission, but on a much greater scale. Once we have a base on the Moon established we would be able to conduct experiments with the Moon’s many elements and eventually attempt to send a person to Mars. According to NASA, in addition to creating a base, we are taking this route because it would be impossible to send a man straight to Mars, so in order to complete the journey we would have to take a large detour to the moon.

The plan was originally proposed during the Bush Administration. The Obama Administration is expected to have an answer for NASA by the end of the month on whether or not we would green light this galactic road trip.

Of course, like many dreams, the issue with NASA’s ambitious proposal is money. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times the amount of money it would cost to put these plans into orbit would be about $3 billion more than NASA’s $18.69 billion budget. Considering our country is already dealing with money issues, Americans would probably have small interest in putting their tax dollars into something like space exploration.

The price is not the only issue with the proposal, although 2020 sounds like a long time, NASA is conducting this trip with new technology. With new sets of rockets, named Ares I and Ares V, and twice the amount of astronauts compared to standard Apollo missions from the 1960s and 1970s, the risk factor behind the technology is quite high.

The solution could lie in alternatives for our trip to Mars, but with the kind of process our government undergoes with proposals and budgets, it would take a long time to find a plan that everyone can agree on. This program began in 2005 and the execution is still undecided. Additionally, so many factors come into play when thinking of something this ambitious. Safety, durability, and preparation are just some of those factors that could prolong or even kill the plan. It’s hard to think or imagine something like this passing through the White House with our current financial situation, especially with issues like health care shadowing NASA’s plans.

One of the important elements in conducting this trip is to inspire the youth of our nation into believing that the future does hold something very exciting and new. The Moon landing was an important event in our country’s history. Unfortunately, it looks like the next generation will not see anything like that in their youth or maybe even in their lifetime.

Although it would be nice to see the idea of space exploration and the final frontier be sparked yet again into the hopes of the American people, it does not seem very realistic. Much like the very concept itself, space exploration seems more like science fiction.

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