On John McCain’s Space Policy

Two weeks ago I wrote that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was reconsidering his campaign’s space policy — his education plan was funded by taking money from NASA (and the development of Constellation, the follow-up to the Shuttle) and diverting it into elementary education. Obama had begun to make noises that he was going to continue funding NASA, perhaps even increase its funding.

Constellation is a smidge important. The Space Shuttle fleet is being retired in 2010. Constellation would not come online until 2015 at the earliest, leaving the United States dependent upon Russia for ferrying astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station.

Obama’s presumptive opponent, Republican John McCain has a plan.

He just wants to keep flying the Shuttle.

Is that really a plan? Is that really even feasible?

No. And absosmurfly not.

McCain’s reasoning makes sense — in the aftermath of Georgia, McCain feels that the United States cannot trust Georgia — but it’s a plan that defies practicality and feasibility.

One, the Shuttles cannot last forever. That’s why the United States needs to develop something to take their place.

Two, some Shuttle components are already beyond their rated lifespans. The RCS propellant tanks, for instance, had a twenty-year lifespan. Twenty years passed eight or nine years ago.

Three, spending the money to keep the shuttles flying in the short term keeps NASA from developing Constellation in a timely basis over the long-term, unless McCain is planning on throwing money at NASA to do both.

I understand that McCain wants to play tough with Russia. I understand that McCain wants a new “Cold War” so he can be as bellicose with Russia as Bush was with Iraq.

But like Bush and Iraq, bellicosity leads to stupid and ill-thought policy decisions. Decisions that will get people killed and don’t move us forward.

McCain’s space policy, like McCain himself, is nothing but a relic of a time that’s passed.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

3 thoughts on “On John McCain’s Space Policy

  1. Sure, some shuttle components are beyond their rated lifespans. But why can’t we build more? Is it a case like the Saturn V, where the infrastructure for construction simply isn’t there anymore? Or is there just not budget at the moment?

    (I’ll never be able to take the Constellation project seriously unless it has four engine pods. ;))

  2. Andrew: There’s no infrastructure to build shuttle components any longer. They weren’t off-the-shelf technology to begin with, and the spares were all used to build Endeavour. And yes, Constellation needs four engine pods, absolutely. 😆

    Julio: Orion is just the name of the crew capsule, which they call “Apollo on steroids.” Constellation is the name for the project as a whole, which also include the Ares launch vehicle.

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