While space advocates have longed for decades to return NASA
to the glory days of the 1960s, a more sustainable future for
human spaceflight may look very different from Apollo.
(credit: NASA)

 

The future of the US human spaceflight program is not reliving its past

by Roger Handberg
Monday, March 4, 2013

Both political party platforms in 2012 demonstrated yet again the reality that the civil space program, in the form of NASA, is at best a third-tier national priority. Similarly, there was no real mention of the space program in the State of the Union Address. This does not mean that space activities are a nullity politically, but rather that the commercial and military space components are now the United States’ primary focus. Space exploration in the form of humans going out there remains a US goal but not a national priority.

For too long, space advocates have acted as faithful believers that the president will save the program and raise NASA up to the earlier levels of the 1960s and 1970s when space activities of this nature were impossible to cancel completely (such as President Nixon’s Space Shuttle decision in 1972). In that time frame, Apollo completed its run and the shuttle was under development as the doorway to a glorious future. The International Space Station (ISS) was the next step, but that success led to program incoherence in terms of NASA moving outward from Earth orbit. Instead, NASA rode the merry-go-round of orbit and back, repeating it until the shuttle was shut down as too dangerous.

Read more: The Space Review: The future of the US human spaceflight program is not reliving its past.

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