End of NASA’s Human Spaceflight? Hardly.

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” –Samuel Langhorne Clemens

If you’ve been following the news on the future of human spaceflight this week in advance of the release of the President’s 2011 budget on Monday, then I’m sure you’ve seen a number of reports about the supposed end of human spaceflight as we know it.  Much of this speculation is attributed to leaks from within NASA and the White House, fanned by quite a bit of buzz in the blogosphere.   Two sources in particular that have caught my eye are http://www.nasawatch.com and http://www.spacepolitics.com.  I’ve read quite a bit of this speculation and decided it was time for me to give my two cents worth.

I find it interesting, and somewhat sad, how many of the supporters and critics in the blogosphere of NASA’s Constellation Program for sending humans beyond low Earth orbit are willing to believe any rumor, no matter how far fetched, and pronounce judgment on the situation with the tiniest amount of actual information.  So little reliable information is out in advance of the budget release on Monday that leaks and rumors get recycled and retold, even combined and distorted to appears as if it is new information.  The blogosphere has been active with so-called pundits interpreting this partial information, whether reliable or not, with ground pronouncements such as “the end of the Constellation Program” and “the end of human spaceflight” and everything in between.

Please.

Whether or not the President’s budget to be released on Monday infers a new human space policy due to changes in the Constellation Project, one thing seems clear to me.  A change in approach to sending humans into space is not equivalent to the end of the Constellation Program OR of human spaceflight.  It is not about Ares I and Ares V versus DIRECT, Jupiter, SDLVs, EELV, or commercial.  It’s about building a sustaining architecture for sending humans into space so that we can get on with the real objective: first-hand exploration and settlement of places beyond Earth.  To think that we would have all the answers on Day 1 on how to accomplish this is naive.  There will be course corrections due to technical, budgetary, schedule, and political matters.  We’re seeing all four influences right now with the current plan, which tells me that something is about to change; to ignore or deny those matters is foolhardy and irresponsible to the American taxpayer.  Because we might change, does this mean the workers and managers within NASA’s Constellation Program are somehow incompetent?  Hardly.  It’s about our ability to keep the end goal in sight, to adapt and react to a changing environment, and to build upon what we learn that will lead to success.

Come Monday, it will be alright – join me with getting on with the business of exploring and settling our universe. Ad astra!

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End of NASA’s Human Spaceflight? Hardly.