The ultimate race to space has today become an international effort, with private corporations and even celebrities joining the cause. This historic mission will bring together the best of the best in technology, knowledge and craft, and push mankind into the next century. All this is being done using cutting edge technologies to send people into space for a variety of exploratory missions. Many of these endeavors will use space shuttles, while others will use the new technology developed at NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and the NASA Future Planet Earth (FLEX).
The International Space Station (ISS) is one such mission. Many space exploration enthusiasts, particularly those who were there for the first-hand fly-past of the space station in November of astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell, have expressed their fondness for a return to the ISS. A number of nations are currently trying to become members of the permanent member club of the ISS, which would entitle them to launch their own space station around the year 2021. Should an agreement be made and accepted by all parties involved then it will be the biggest technological leap in human history, allowing humans to set foot on the moon and perhaps even to do something on Mars.
Although the race to the moon is the ultimate goal for most advocates of space travel, a significant number of those in the aviation and commercial aerospace industries feel that they need a much quicker route to the Red Planet. They believe that a trip to Mars is not only necessary but also very financially viable. This may be because of the fact that the majority of our tax dollars are currently being used to develop the international space race to keep the U.S. focused on the moon, and to develop more efficient aircraft and vehicles for its astronauts. This is why there have been recent efforts to cancel some proposed Constellation programs. For example, a $500 million per year contract to development of an unmanned aerial vehicle was canceled recently by the NASA administrator.
There have also been proposals for a lunar or an unmanned probe to land on the moon to collect samples for possible lunar missions. This seems to be a step in the right direction however, that will not ultimately lead to an actual moon mission. Another option for a mission to the moon is to use the SLS (space vehicle system) that is currently designed for the moon missions. One problem with this system is the cost. It is estimated that it will cost millions of dollars per piece to launch it into orbit and return it safely to earth.
Some proponents of a journey to the moon or Mars feel that it is a necessary step for the United States to maintain its leadership position in the space industry. The United States is currently one of two countries in the world that has not signed on to join the twenty-first century space race to provide a human voyage to Mars. NASA is managed by a Presidential Administration that has been in office for only a couple of years. Part of the reason for this slow adoption of space technology is the fact that most members of Congress are unwilling to pay for NASA. Part of the problem is that many members of Congress do not really understand all the expensive programs that NASA has to operate in order to get to the moon or Mars.
Many representatives want to see NASA as part of the space race. Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) proposed a bill in July that would attach an unrelated amendment to the National Space Technology and Development Act of 2021 to the authorization of the Jamesaceous Earth Science Program. The Culberson amendment would cut NASA funding for research and development designed to develop private companies that would bid to build and fly their own space tourism systems.
The United States can participate in such a race to the moon, but not without consequences. For example, should it choose not to participate, China and Russia will take over the moon and explore it in a much more aggressive manner. That would mean that China would eventually possess the moon. Russia would also gain access to the moon and would likely do so sooner than later. All this means that our nation would be left in a position of weakness and vulnerability. It also means that the United States would be left in a position of watching the Chinese, Russians, and Russians get the first shot at the moon, while we sit back and watch our competitors get the job done.
Now consider if you will the implications of those things for our nation. If we go into a space race, the other countries that participate will use our assets against us in space, perhaps even bringing our system down. Should we opt not to join that race to the moon, then we would leave open the option of having someone bring our system down from the sky on a launch from the U.S., maybe from Cape Canaveral. That means the United States could be tied up forever, because they have no way to get it back up. As regards the future of space travel, well that’s still up in the air. Nevertheless, it appears that a good argument can be made in favor of joining the race to the moon, rather than not.