The Future of US Space Flight

President Obama Telephones Space Crew

According to space.com, President Obama on a call to the astronauts of the final Atlantis flight in July stressed that the retirement of the space shuttle program, “ushers in an exciting new era.”  He challenged NASA to create new systems and technologies that will allow the agency to push beyond low-Earth orbit, and one day send humans to Mars.  He also praised the future of commercial spaceflight, with competition fueling who will be the first private firm to launch American astronauts back to the station from home soil. The future–public or private? Confusing!

Last October President Obama signed the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 which effectively brought the Constellation program to an end. The Constellation Program was a human spaceflight program within NASA, the space agency of  the United States. The Constellation Program was being developed to send astronauts first to the International Space Station, then to the Moon, and afterward to Mars and other destinations beyond. 

According to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a FOX News article, his “foremost” mission as the head of America’s space exploration agency is to improve relations with the Muslim world.  Though international diplomacy would seem well outside NASA’s orbit, Bolden said in an interview with Al Jazeera that strengthening those ties was among the top tasks President Obama assigned him. He said better interaction with the Muslim world would ultimately advance space travel. 

Charles Bolden“. . . before I became the NASA administrator — he (President Obama) charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science … and math and engineering,”.  Furthermore, Bolden said the United Statesis not going to travel beyond low-Earth orbit on its own and that no country is going to make it to Mars without international help. (Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/07/05/nasa-chief-frontier-better-relations-muslims/#ixzz1WBxoZjYn)

After Atlantis arrived home, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden issued the following statement: This final shuttle flight marks the end of an era, but today, we recommit ourselves to continuing human spaceflight and taking the necessary and difficult steps to ensure America’s leadership in human spaceflight for years to come. I want to send American astronauts where we’ve never been before by focusing our resources on exploration and innovation, while leveraging private sector support to take Americans to the International Space Station in low Earth orbit. With the bold path President Obama and Congress have set us on, we will continue the grand tradition of exploration.”

In a CNN interview, Bolden emphasized exploring opportunities for employment for those 7,000 NASA workers facing unemployment:  “I’d like to talk to people from Silicon Valley to get them to come here.  This is an incredibly rich area of the country and I think people are missing a bet here. They’re missing out on the most talented work force in the world. I have people here who can do anything.”

Tomorrow, The Astronauts Speak     Rita Bay

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