America’s space program is in some sort of a transition period with the retiring of the Space Shuttle program. While it was time to put the Space Shuttles to rest, a program and design that dates back to the 1970’s, what is a little surprising, sad, and perhaps even understandable is that there really didn’t/doesn’t seem to be any real kind of plan to transition to following the decommissioning of the Space Shuttles.
Typically organizations have a new product ready to go when they are looking to end the run of the current product. Apparently NASA didn’t get that memo, because our astronauts are now reliant on the Russian Space Agency to ferry them to and from the International Space Station. That’s right, NASA does not have a rocket capable of delivering men into orbit, it is the 1960’s all over again, when America found itself woefully behind the Soviet Union in its space program.
Given the persistent budget cuts that NASA faces year end and year out I guess this lack of a replacement for the Space Shuttle is perhaps understandable. It is no secret that America’s finances are a little strained, and given that it is kind of hard to justify the continued spending of billions of dollars on space exploration when there are a lot more Earthly needs that should be addressed.
Thankfully though this is still America and the private sector is demonstrating that it is more than capable of filling needs where they exist in the market. Enter Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, known simply as SpaceX, which was founded by PayPal founder Elon Musk, and the capsule that this company developed called Dragon. Tonight at 8:35 pm EST will be this company’s first mission to the International Space Station carrying supplies. There was an earlier mission to the Space Station, but it was simply a test mission, nothing was carried on board the capsule.
Right now many are saying that SpaceX’s privatization of space flight is kind of neat, but it isn’t exactly solving the lack of manned spacecraft here in America. Well, just relax there people, because the company does have plans to convert their Dragon capsule for manned missions too. Just as with a government funded space program, you don’t just start shooting people into space without an adequate trial program first.