“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a Man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth”.
President John F Kennedy in his speech on May 1961 AD, committing US$24 billion to Placing a Man on the Moon
The week of Sunday April 10th 2011 to Saturday April 16th 2011 was an eventful one. It, dear reader, was marked by the celebration of the history making exploits of Yuri Gagarin, the twenty seven (27)-year old cosmonaut who blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome on 12th April 1961AD.
The Americans took the bait, sent up US Astronaut Alan Shepard a few weeks later, not wishing to endure another Sputnik. Take a sample of Sputnik’s beeping or even its Telemetry Signal and know that the American’s in the 60’s felt embarrassed that the Soviet Union beat them!
And thus began the Space Race, which culminated with a Man on the Moon – and the present day Shuttle STS being retired with NASA National Aeronautical Space Administration) being placed on a diet by Senator Barack Obama, with Private Space Enterprise taking up the slack.
Truly, Space and NASA formed since the heady heyday of USSR Communist vs Capitalist Ideology Mon Race, has become a bloated over budget bureaucracy named NASA still building on the old science of the 60’s.
The ageing STS Shuttle Program has had numerous accidents, mainly Challenger on Tuesday, January 28th, 1986 and Columbia on February 1st 2003AD.
It also is expensive to maintain and had effectively become billion dollar taxi for over-qualified astronauts, as a PhD’s need not be the qualification to go into Space to fix a leaking Hydrazine Tank on a Commercial Satellite.
Just be a US Navy or Air Force Test Pilot is training enough.
Obviously, what NASA was doing could be achieved for a lot less.
Thus President Barack Obama had not only decided that the US Government needs to go green, committing in October 2010 to take the White House Executive Mansion and all Government Agencies would be taken off the grid via Solar Power as of the Spring of 2011 AD.
He also decided to go Mean with the Budget for NASA as well.
In the same month of October the Obama-led Administration signed into Law the NASA Authorization Act (2010) which reduces NASA (National Aeronautical Space Administration) Budget to US$19 billion budget for the Fiscal Year 2011 AD effectively heralding the beginning of Privatization in Space Exploration and Deep space Travel.
His plans, which for want of a better word, appear to be straight out of Star Trek!
Simply put, the NASA Authorization Act (2010), after much bi-partisan bickering, aims to achieve the following:
- Return NASA to the Role of Science Research
- Open up Space to the Private Sector, particularly Silicon Valley VC (Venture Capitalists) and Military and Commercial Contractors
- Do it on a shoestring budget of $19 billion budget, down from nearly US$250 billion + due to project overruns
The specific aims of the NASA Authorization Act (2010) are even loftier, in order of how long it will take to implement:
- Have Private Sector built reusable spacecraft to replace ageing, outdated and inefficient STS Shuttle Program
- NASA is to focus on robotic explorations of the Solar System
- Establishing a permanent Moon Base (‘cause going to the Moon again is so 60’s)
- Man on Mars by 2020 AD
- Deep Space Exploration [beyond our Solar System], Robotic and Manned
Roger Launius, Space history curator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, speaks on these sudden changes mid-course in NASA Space Program, quote: “Of course it’s happened in the past; of course programs have been canceled — they’ve been canceled in mid-stream”.
So what has happened since the implementation of the NASA Authorization Act (2010)?
Space X’s, owned by Venture Capitalist and Silicon Valley Billionaire and PayPal CEO Elon Musk, has successfully launched and returned to Earth their Dragon Capsule riding atop their custom-built Heavy Lift Rocket, the Falcon.
The wheel of cheese, a tribute to Monty Python, was actually a bit of a test as to the viability of the craft to carry human passengers as its molten state would indicate that the Dragon Capsule could not take up its eventual role.
Which of course, is to ferry US Astronauts into Space to do the routine Maintenance tasks on the Hubble Space Telescope, the ISS (International Space Station). Not to mention earning money from Private Contracts mainly involving placing Private Satellites into orbit, a much simpler affair.
Space X CEO Elon Musk hopes to start cargo flight by December 2011 and ferry NASA astronauts to and from the ISS within three (3) years of NASA approval.
At US$20 million per astronaut with NASA guaranteeing a minimum of four (4) flights per year on their seven (7) seater Dragon Capsule.
Despite the hefty US$140 for a full load, it is a school bus bargain compared to riding on the cramped Soyoz capsule that only holds four (4) for US$56 million by 2013, as the STS Shuttle has been retired.
I await the coming announcement of manned tests involving Space X’s Dragon Capsule with baited breath.
Meanwhile NASA has been up to their Research planning up to the year 2020, by which time they should have a Man on Mars and a Moon Base with colonists.
One of NASA Research directives involves plans to plunge a car sized probe into the Sun to get direct readings from its surface just before the probe burns up.
I guess if anything goes wrong, the Earth will know in eight (8) minutes time!
This is necessary Research, as we are now approaching the coming of the once-every-eleven (11)-year Solar Maximum which had been forecast as far back as 2006.
The way things are looking now, it looks like we may be in for Solar Radiation showers in 2012AD.
This is NASA’s short term focus for now, as a Major solar Storm, spitting out highly charged Cosmic Rays, Gamma Rays interacting with Earth’s Magnetosphere and Ionosphere, can dramatically alter the weather can cause strange phenomenon.
Especially with animals, as changes in the Magnetosphere by the disruption due to bombardment by charged particles can change the orientation of the localized Magnetic Field causing animals that navigate via the Earth’s magnetic field to behave strangely.
Already mysterious weather anomalies and animal behaviors have occurred, that may be possibly related to early gouts of radiation breaching our Magnetosphere and Ionosphere namely:
- Tornadoes in Arkansas in early January of 2011 at a time when tornadoes normally do not occur
- One thousand (1000) Blackbirds in Arkansas on Monday January 3rd 2010, which are seasonal migration birds, falling out of the sky, apparently dying from Trauma on impact with the ground.
- Drum Fish, which like salmon are migratory fish, dying by the thousands, apparently from trauma after colliding with riverbed rocks. Again, occurring also in Arkansas on Monday January 3rd 2010
Like the Adventure of the Private space Industry, I wait with baited breath on NASA to make more headlines about which to dream of space.
It is my hope that Space Exploration will inspire the Americans as much as the modern day Russia, under the leadership of Russian President and Premier Dmitri Medvedev still have lofty ambitions for Space Exploration on this the 50th Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s Famous Orbit that inspired a nation to Reach for the Moon.
Hopefully, modern Capitalist-driven Russia can become more financial stable and be inspired to work side by side with once former foes, the Americans.
Jamaica too, may eventually benefit.
This as the abandoned Vernamfield Airbase can be renovated into a spaceport for the transportation of wealthy passengers into space to experience the Joy of Weightlessness for a cool US$200,000 per customer with the help of a suitable VC.
This location is especially suited for this kind of transport, being as the original Vernamfield Airbase, an old Abandoned American Airbase, used to be a lift of base for American Bombers during WWII.
Its construction foundation is solid and firm and most importantly, it is close to the sea, a requirement of most Spaceports.
This is much as CEO Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group is the VC for the Virgin Intergalactic Spaceport in New Mexico and the successfully tested SpaceShipOne, Jamaica may benefit by become a launch site for the lucrative business of Space Tourists at our own Space Port, here in Vernamfield, in Gimme-me-Bit, Clarendon.
Eventually we may even secure contracts for heavy lift vehicles into Space, such a Private Satellite Deployment, Cargo and even Human Passengers!
But how can this be, you balk in amusement?
Well, as this first in a series of articles on Space Exploration, I will have more to explain. I will in subsequent articles make the connection between Space Exploration and how Jamaica can benefit and why we should be involved.
Not to mention the signposts as to the latest Developments in Space Exploration as we aspire, like Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, to touch the stars.
And so can Jamaica……..
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