August 12, 2020

The Private Sector Goes to Infinity and Beyond

posted on: Wednesday April 14, 2010

Arman Oganisian ’13 / Asst. World Editor

What is out there? What is waiting for us in that black abyss? Can we go there? These are the questions that NASA has asked and tried to answer since it was established by the National Aeronautics and Space Act in 1958. However, CNN reports that, pending an approval from the U.S. Congress, the private sector will take charge of future space exploration and answer these questions itself. CNN reports that after the Columbia Disaster in 2003, former President George W. Bush decided to complete the space station and have the shuttle retired by 2010. Simultaneously, he ordered that NASA to begin work on new rockets, capsules, and landers so that astronauts can be transported to and from the moon by the early 2020s. In order to meet the demand, NASA initiated that Constellation program and, in the process, has spent roughly $9 billion in the past five years. During his campaign, CNN reported that Obama is announcing support for the Constellation program. However, once taking office, he set up a team of outside experts with the aim of reviewing NASA’s progress, plans for the future, and expenditures. CNN reports that after careful review, the panel concluded that NASA’s Constellation program “was over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation due to a failure to invest in critical new technologies.” In addition, the Constellation program sucked away money from other programs such as robotic space exploration, science, and Earth observations. For these reasons, CNN reports that the Obama administration decided to cancel the Constellation program in order to cut losses. The cancellation of the program will result in job losses. As reported by CNN, it is estimated that about 10,000 jobs will be lost at the Kennedy Space Center alone. Thousands more are estimated to be lost at other NASA posts as a result of this cancellation. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden admitted that the associated job loss is a pressing issue. According CNN, he stated that “this is what we call progress, unfortunately. If you look at every area of technology in this country, as you advance there are fewer and fewer manual-type jobs. That’s what happens when you advance technology.”Bolden stated that everything is being done to minimize job loss. Instead of spending most of the budget on a single big project, NASA will be spending it on numerous projects.One factor in all of this is Obama’s decision to involve the private sector. CNN reports that the Kennedy Space Center will be managing $500 million in 2011 and more in the next five years to “encourage development of a new private-sector launch industry.”

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