LOCAL FOOTBALL SCORING UPDATES PRESENTED BY THE HUNGRY HOBO:

Time for U.S., NASA to go more boldly


Share
Posted Online: March 24, 2013, 11:00 pm
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
Philadelphia Inquirer
"Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before." -- James T. Kirk

A new Star Trek movie comes out in May. No doubt fans of the cult-status films that descended from the original 1960s TV series will flock to theaters to experience it in 3-D, many still believing Captain Kirk's mission statement was prescient.

But in these days of fiscal cliffs and sequestration, the space administration, like other federal agencies, is taking budget hits that have some proponents of space exploration wondering if President Obama meant it three years ago when he said, "I am 100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future."

Obama tried to energize the space program by encouraging entrepreneurship. But his privatization model needs to be recalibrated. SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada Corp. are developing space vehicles to carry crews, but since most of their money comes from NASA, not venture capitalists, the space agency's budget cuts hinder their progress.

Mike Griffin, who ran NASA during the Bush administration, says the private space companies need an incentive beyond dwindling federal funds. Instead of limiting them to developing craft that, like the mothballed space shuttles, achieve only low Earth orbit, give them a more lucrative goal, he says.

Griffin told reporters in Huntsville, Ala., home of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, that missions to supply the International Space Station are not "a big enough or long-lasting enough market" to attract capital for commercial space enterprises. He said a more viable market would result if a moon base were created for deep-space missions.

That idea was nixed last year when Obama said that instead of a return to the moon, he would prefer to invest in a new propulsion system that could take men to Mars by 2037. That approach seems logical, as Star Trek's Mr. Spock would say. But it will be hard to ever reach Mars if NASA's budget keeps being cut. The sequester will trim its $17.8 billion budget by $894 million.

If a new poll is to be believed, the public would back Obama if he cranked up the fiscal engine for deep-space exploration. A survey for the communications firm Phillips & Co. and the nonprofit Explore Mars found that 76 percent of Americans would support raising NASA's budget to 1 percent of the federal total, from the current 0.5 percent, for exploration of faraway places like Mars.

Absent a funding boost, NASA needs Congress to stop treating it like a jobs machine. Underused NASA facilities could be closed to produce savings, but lawmakers protecting jobs stand in the way. A Florida Today writer suggests NASA needs the equivalent of the military's base-closing commission, whose decisions couldn't be overruled by politicians. He's right.


















 



Local events heading








  Today is Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.






(More History)