Friday, December 13, 2013

One Heckuva Depressing Projection


As always, I'm on the road again.  I'm tapping out this blog post late at night in a Days Inn room in Western Pennsylvania, so this will be brief.

Above, courtesy of the Planetary Society is a chart showing what's happening to NASA's planetary research budget both now and in the near future.  This is what happens when you have a Democratic president who doesn't think space research is important and a Republican Party that thinks anything the government spends money on is bad.

You can find the Planetary Society's exposition of the above chart here.



Richard Mason said...

The Obama administration's funding of NASA as a whole, in inflation-adjusted dollars, compares quite favorably with the three U.S. presidents who preceded him (and compares *very* favorably with the three U.S. presidents before that).

So it's not all space research being harshly cut, so much as planetary missions (i.e. robots) being harshly cut, to spare human spaceflight (i.e. astronauts) and astronomy missions (i.e. James Webb Space Telescope).

It's not a surprise that human spaceflight should have political support vastly exceeding its actual usefulness. Science fiction writers are probably to blame for that.

But why is the next space telescope currently enjoying such budgetary favor relative to the next planetary probe? I would have thought that the political support for the two programs would be quite similar in degree and kind. Why should one kind of space fan be favored over another?

A non-cynical (therefore probably wrong) explanation that occurs to me is: the recent discoveries of exoplanets. Perhaps that has fired up a bit more interest in telescope observations of other solar systems... as planetary science enjoyed a bit of a boost in the '90s, I imagine, from the notion that we had found Martian bacteria in a meteorite in Antarctica.

(I am a roboticist, and not an astronomer, so you can imagine where my natural sympathies lie. But even I have to admit I find exoplanet discoveries exciting.)

The Magill said...

The Planetary Society itself has been as much to blame for the decline at NASA as anyone else.

Their profile is simply much to low!

Quite frankly, robotic exploration -- unless it's Amazon delivering your "stuff" -- doesn't make the nightly news. ... in fact, hardly anything related to "Space" does anymore.

I know that India and China have been "ramping up" their space programs (India just launched a Mars probe) because I read the Economist -- but I've not seen coverage of it elsewhere.

We just had the 50th anniversary of Dr. Who -- according to the BBC, the most watched BBC program ever.

Perhaps the Doctor and Captain Jack could somehow be recruited to do promo's for NASA.
Or maybe for Virgin or Orbital Sciences or SpaceX.

The problems lie,not with those of us who are "committed" to the idea of leaving the planet, but with those whose eyes rarely rise above the horizon.

Or maybe, as I pointed out to Gardner at Axler's Halloween party, the Finish elevator manufacturer KONE unveiled, in June 2013, its "Ultra Rope." -- with a carbon fiber core, its extremely light weight means many things, not the least of which is the shattering of the previous limit of 500 meters for a single elevator.

Maybe Clarke's Elevator isn't so far off after all.

Then maybe it's time to dust-off O'Neill's L5 proposals.

The Magill said...

As we "spoke" the Jade Rabbit - China's moon rover soft-landed on the moon and began its "trekking"

Ken Houghton said...

"But why is the next space telescope currently enjoying such budgetary favor relative to the next planetary probe?"

Because it's already at least five years late, and repairs on the Hubble can only do so much.

So The Planetary Society was as fooled by Shrub's "Mars, bitchez!" declaration (without any movements to make such possible) and is now whining that their not getting words? Awww.