Neither is the US apparently if you want to live in a nation where science and technology is a priority. Private industry, and what could be argued as congressional pork, are soldiering on however. For once, for the benefit of our society. ATK and NASA tested what was formerly the Ares rocket program in Utah on Tuesday.
It's a pretty impressive sight. You know that thrill you get when you are very high up and look over the edge? That's the same thrill my heart feels when I see this rocket. Be still my heart. The Space Shuttle is outdated and won't last us much longer. We still need to get people and things into orbit. The current Obama plan is to trash the Space Shuttle and trash this rocket as well. I guess we'll just use the Russian Soyuz rocket because why the hell bother with space.
Well I'll tell you why the hell bother. Stop by the NASA site, or anywhere really, and you'll find a list of all the things not possible if we hadn't developed them for space travel: scratch resistant lenses, solar power, fire resistant material, breast cancer detection and biopsy enabling chip, human tissue stimulation. More than just the material your bed's made out of, but the technology that powers your laptop, your smartphone, your GPS, and maybe your grandfather's pacemaker. The people who went into science and engineering and developed these consumer devices (as well as industrial applications) may have done so because as little kids they felt inspired by the Apollo program. If there's something we as a nation can be patriotic about I sure think it's this.
Of course, some liberals are angry they voted for Obama and now he's shutting this program down. Some conservatives are upset we're spending money on the stimulus rather than space travel. Some liberals would rather see the budget spent at home and some conservatives think NASA is just more wasteful government excess. NASA's budget is roughly 18 billion or less. That's less than a tenth of a percent of the budget. Americans spend more than three times that on soda every year.
The NY Times had this article on the probably-cancelled rocket program. It gives people another chance to criticize the costs. ATK thinks they can build two rockets a year for $300 million. That's nothing. Every F-35 we buy (or don't buy, because Lockheed is so far behind schedule) costs us $140 million. I like both programs and I think it's important the government continues to fund science and technology; both for defense and science and exploration. Trusting private companies to develop this stuff on their own is like trusting the banking industry to regulate itself. Ain't gonna happen.
So for once I put my hopes into congress to protect space flight and the rockets needed to get us there. We should be staring up at the stars every chance we get: kids and adults alike dreaming of space travel and endless possibilities.