A tedious final public meeting of the board reviewing the
country’s human space program concluded with a sobering assessment of the
future, at least for those wishing to see American flags on other bodies in the
solar system. To put it bluntly: It ain’t gonna happen in our lifetimes without
a big boost in NASA’s budget.
That’s not to say there’s not a silver lining, a couple actually.
First off, we’re likely to make our international partners very happy because
the only program that looks robust and viable for the foreseeable future is the
International Space Station. For the most part, the Human Space Flight Review
panel seems to favor extending its planned lifetime to at least 2020. It’s a
logical choice considering that the complex isn’t even finished yet and
currently is on the books for five years of operating funds beyond its 2010
completion date. That’s less time than NASA has kept the rovers Spirit and
Opportunity plucking around on Mars.
The space station will have consumed somewhere in the neighborhood of
$100 billion by the time it’s finished, so it seems only prudent to try to get
some return on the investment.
NASA, however, would like ...