A New Age in Space Exploration?

A New Age in Space Exploration?

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“A Renewed Spirit of Discovery” was the title of President Bush’s speech for his vision of new Space Exploration. Since the debate was given on January 14, 2004, it has produced viable concerns from those who support and oppose the initiative. Arguments for and against it have appeared in all types of media, and more importantly in the minds of Americans. This Literature Review will discuss many of these beliefs in order to achieve a well-rounded, objective analysis of the issue. But before any opinions are put forth, it is always important to talk about the relative facts.

Why put forth a new vision?

Over past 30 years, it is hard to say that we have “explored” space. It is more appropriate to say we have conquered manned flight in Earth’s lower orbit. Truly, the Apollo Missions to the moon, which ended in the mid 70’s, was also the end to Manned Space Exploration. We have continued to build satellites and space stations to orbit the earth, and robots and satellites to explore Mars and Deep Space. By proposing to put humans on the Moon and Mars, the President has not changed our manned space exploration policy; he has created one.

President George W. Bush proposed a new age in Space Exploration on January 14, 2004. The Space Shuttle Columbia disaster was only part of his reasoning for announcing a new direction for NASA. A reason not as well known is the current lack of any direction for NASA. Other than sending probes and robots to Deep Space and Mars, NASA has continued to upgrade current projects like the Hubble Space Telescope. [3] Not since the design of the Space Shuttle around 1980 has a new and demanding project been given to NASA. It is essential that the brilliant minds at NASA be pushed to greatness. The President’s new plan for Moon and Mars landings will provide the direction and new energy needed for NASA [2]. NASA Director Sean O’ Keefe has fully agreed with the need to challenge NASA and push its abilities to another level.

Space Exploration History

Humans are constantly exploring new horizons, which in turn raise the bar for new ideas to conquer the next step in exploration. New goals force the development of new technologies, which in turn are used to design technologies that affect everyday Americans.

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Related Searches

More than 1,300 space technologies have found their way into industrial inventions to improve the quality of life and everyday items. CAT Scanners and MRI technology, kidney dialysis machines, programmable heart pacemakers, fetal heart monitors, and surgical probes to help treat brain tumors are just some of the ways space technologies have spawned new devices that help save lives. Fire fighters now use infrared hand-held cameras to identify hot spots, and the satellite communication industry is currently dominated by the US due to space technologies. Probably the most used space technology today is Velcro, first designed for Astronauts in the Apollo Space Program. All of these examples derive their technology and usefulness from ambitious space exploration endeavors. [2]

There has been much debate concerning the idea that exploration is inherent to human beings. It is a fact that all great cultures are known to reach beyond their borders. Ancient Mesopotamian cultures were able to trade with the Indus River civilization before history was recorded. The Greeks and Romans are both remembered and even revered for their attempts to control the known world. European countries sent ships to the Americas over a period lasting 2 centuries. America itself has its history forever linked to the Louisiana Purchase and Manifest Destiny, our passion for spreading west from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In the 20th century our exploration of space helped define us as a people and became part of our society, with TV shows and movies glorifying space exploration. The history of the World and the United States revolves around exploration. Why not have the 21st century known as the colonization of the Moon and exploration of Mars?

The President’s Vision

The President’s new vision provides a great outline for NASA to work within. He has laid the foundation and put forth a timetable that will allow NASA to transition from its current projects into a new age of Space Exploration. The first key to the new objectives is the continuation of the Space Shuttle Program until 2010. The Shuttle will help the construction of the International Space Station (ISS) and carry on with its scientific missions. The United States will use the ISS to conduct multi-national experiments, as well as further investigate human needs in space. [1]

Next, the United States will build a new manned exploration vehicle, the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). To be developed and tested by 2008, its job will be to explore beyond Earth’s orbit, much like the Apollo Command Module. The President’s plan calls for the first manned mission to take place by 2014. The third part of the vision involves missions to the moon. It calls for robotic missions to explore and locate possible landing sites on the moon, but more importantly assess possible habitat locations for a permanent base. With a new vehicle and further information on the Moon, human beings would go back no later than 2020. It is from the Moon that mankind will explore other realms in the Universe, starting with Mars. Throughout all of this, Mars is the end goal. NASA will continue to send robots there in order to learn more about the Red Planet. [2]

The Price Tag

Economics motivates everything, and Space Exploration is no different. The Apollo Program would cost $147 billion in terms of today’s money. All told the new initiative could cost around $55 billion, if not more, by 2020. This is much more than the $36 billion to be allocated if Congress passes the President’s proposal, and continually funded at the same rate for the next 15 years [8]. It is because of this price discrepancy that an in-depth look into the economic status of the mission is needed. First, a breakdown of the money supply is needed.

The President’s proposed budget calls for $12 billion to be spent for space exploration over the next 5 years. Eleven billion dollars of that would be diverted from the current NASA budget, and Congress would pass the onther $1 billion over the next 5 years. This means that every year for the next 5 years, Congress would increase NASA’s budget by $200 million a year. This will increase NASA’s budget 5% each year, compared with the 3% annual increase it has received for the previous 4 years [2]. At $12 billion over every five-year period from here until 2020, the project will spend $36 billion. After analyzing how much money will be allocated for this new initiative, it is important to look at estimated costs.

Since the plans inception, NASA has put together detailed budget estimates to achieve the President’s objectives in returning to the Moon. To build and operate the new Crew Exploration Vehicle will cost a combined $24 billion through the 2014 fiscal year. The new Saturn V rocket, which can blast 100 metric tons into space, is projected to cost $13-16 billion. The price discrepancy is dependent on the new engines, stages and ground infrastructure. To support a Moon landing by 2020 will cost between $9-10 billion, with follow-up missions estimated at $2 billion. The total estimate comes to around $55 billion dollars, almost twice the amount proposed to be allocated.

Opposition to the Plan

Monetary issues are the number one complaint against the new vision for space exploration. As demonstrated above, the cost far exceeds the proposed amount of money to be spent on the new initiative. The simple fact that the United States is in the midst of an economic downturn, coupled with Congress’s habit of not balancing the budget, has led many individuals to protest the issue. Most opponents make the claim that the money could be better spent on issues like education and safety. Since it is a huge election year, all of these concerns are more important to congressmen and women because they are more important to the average family. These claims are not partisan. Both Democrats and Republicans in congress have joined forces to investigate the program further. Their goal is to achieve a realistic budget in order to prove that the cost is too great.

Risking human life is another concern of those against the plan. Why put a human life in danger to explore space? This is a question often heard from common American households, reporters, and politicians. Although the answers to the questions vary, the most profound answer has been worded as follows. Our technology has proven that we can send a rover to Mars, or a satellite to Deep Space, so why risk a human life to do practically the same thing? Spirit and Opportunity are currently rolling across Mars gathering every type of scientific data. This data is cheaply sent back to Earth where scientists, while sitting in the safe oxygen-rich environment of Earth, can analyze and study the properties of Mars. Are these robots and others being built and designed a bad form of space exploration? The answer is obviously no. They are the best available forms of safe space exploration. [7] [10]

Additional Proposals

The following proposals are new ideas that do not necessarily compromise all these positions from people both for and against the new space initiative. They are ideas not put forth in the new initiatives that need to be implemented. Beginning with the idea of making the President’s proposals an international plan. By incorporating the resources of the European Space Agency, the Japanese space agency (JAXA), and other institutions, the goals of this new policy become very reachable. Also, by bringing in other foreign agencies, NASA would also bring in more money, more qualified workers, and more ideas. [5]

Furthermore, NASA should be allotted more time to complete all mission requirements. By pushing the deadlines back it will allow for several things. First of all, new technology can be developed that will reduce the cost of space exploration. Also, current technology can be adapted to meet the demands of space exploration. Finally, new and cheaper materials can be created to again lower the cost. [4]

Conclusions

It is evident that we do not have the long-term financial ability to fund a program to reach Mars in the next few decades, possibly not even within this century, but there is no reason why humans can not only return to the Moon, but also conquer it. After establishing a base on the Moon, and developing new technologies for space exploration and the health of astronauts, reaching Mars would be the next step. To reduce the current financial burdens this mission would impose upon the United States, an international coalition of Space Agencies should be put together to tackle this new and challenging task. Furthermore, by pushing back the timetable new technologies and materials can be created to allow cheaper, yet safer, space exploration. If we are willing to spend billions of dollars on satellites and space stations that inevitable come back to Earth, why not put a base on the Moon, which will be there as long as humans are on Earth.

References

[1] "A Renewed Spirit of Democracy." The White House. 24 May 2004 24 May 2004.

[2] "A Renewed Spirit of Democracy." The White House. 24 May 2004 24 May 2004.

[3] Carreau, Mark. "Ex-astronaut, Top Scientist Question Deep Space Strategy." Houston Chronicle. 5 Mar. 2004: A5.

[4] Coopersmith, Jonathan. "Is Bush's Mars Project Out of this World?" History News Network. 19 Jan. 2004 24 May 2004.

[5] Leary, Warren E. "Panel Told Mission Should be International." New York Times. 4 May 2004: A24.

[6] Leary, Warren E. "To Go to the Moon and Mars, NASA is Told it Must Change." New York Times. 5 May 2004: A24.

[7] Mars Exploration: Missions. 14 Feb. 2004 .

[8] Morring, Frank Jr. " Not so Fast; Bush's Space Vision Encounters Skeptism; Prospects a Tossup." Aviation Week & Space Technology. 19 Apr. 2004: 62.

[9] Morris, Jefferson. "Moon Mission should Simulate Extended Mars Visit, Manager Says." Aviaition Week's Aerospace Daily. 17 Mar 2004: 50.

[10] Park, Robert L. "Sending Astronauts to Mars: a Quaint, Costly, Needless Proposal." The Chronicle of Higher Education. 5 Mar 2004: B.13.
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