Goodbye, rocketmen

Funding for the space program has been drastically reduced, leading to the end of manned spaceflight in the United States.

Lauren Komer

I remember when scientists discovered water on Mars, and when Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet. I’ve always followed space news rather closely.

So when I found out that President Barack Obama was cutting funding to the space program, I was appalled. No more men on the moon? We’re paying Russia to take our astronauts to the space station?

But when you look more closely, the issue becomes even more convoluted. The entire space program is not being cut. The main cut affects Constellation, a project to put astronauts back on the moon by 2020.

According to The Washington Post, “Obama’s 2011 budget request would nix Constellation’s rocket and crew capsule, funnel billions of dollars to new spaceflight technologies and outsource to commercial firms the task of ferrying astronauts to low-Earth orbit.”

What is also of concern here is the loss of jobs and long-term revenue related to this budget cut. According to The Washington Times, the cut will result in the loss of 7,000 high-tech, high-paying jobs in Florida as well as $2.5 billion, not including any money already used to fund the program.

During economic hard times, numerically it makes sense to reduce funding to the space program. Rocket launches are expensive (it costs about $200 million to fire a rocket into space), but I still find it hard to believe that we have given up on what was once considered “the final frontier.” At one time, the nation proudly sent men to the moon. Now, we’ll rely on our former rivals in the space race to take us there.

I have to wonder… where has all the passion gone? The countries that have large space programs have protested loudly, but that’s more economics than anything else. When Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet, it seemed as if everyone was talking about it. When I bring up the issue with the space program right now, most students don’t even know what I’m talking about. I’ll admit that I read news about space exploration extensively, but the impact of this on our space program is huge, and no one even knows what’s going on.

Maybe it’s not economically practical to send people up into space. But does that mean we need to discontinue the space program completely? Depending on Russia to provide transportion for our astronauts seems to go against the American values of doing things ourselves. We’re paying them to launch us out; how do we know they won’t raise their prices? We’re setting them up for a monopoly on space travel.

In these hard times, the amount of money being wasted and jobs being lost does not seem economically savvy. Obama promised to create jobs during his campaign. How is he compensating for the 7,000 jobs lost?

The country banded together when the first man walked on the moon in 1969. Nowadays, no one realizes we’re not sending astronauts up anymore. With the current economic state, I understand why we wouldn’t be researching moon colonies, but what Obama is failing to answer is how cutting this program atones for lost jobs, money and the sense of American pride.