Lately, it appears that NASA has been promoting many private companies to reach for the stars. NASA has been giving a lot of attention to the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge (NGLCC) as well as the Space Elevator Games…and oh yeah, STS-129 launches in 2 weeks.
I find it to be great that NASA is promoting the privatized space industry, but when its own programs are struggling on the funding that they are getting, shouldn’t they be focusing on their own problems right now? The Augustine Committee, which met over the summer to discuss options of where NASA should go, has clearly stated that on their current budget, they don’t have enough funding for their Ares I and Ares V rockets, the next generation after the shuttle retires in 2010, to get it off the ground until possibly after they de-orbit the ISS.
Now, I am not saying at all that I don’t believe space travel shouldn’t be privatized so citizens can go into space. In fact, along with spaceflight participant Richard Garriott, who I had the pleasure to talk with on this subject, I agree compeltely that the future should belong to privatized space travel, so that ordinary people can get their chance to feel what it’s like to go into space.
What I am trying to say, though, is that NASA should start focusing on its own issues, between one of its Mars rovers, Spirit, being stuck on the red planet and suffering from occasional spurts of “amnesia”, and the fact that 2010 is the last time the Space Shuttle is supposed to fly, and that we will only have Russia to rely on after that for human spaceflight. Plus, the budget that they are working off of won’t be able to extend the shuttle until 2011 or even continue to get us to the moon by 2020!
So, as great and amazing as these competitions for private space travel are, and as much as I personally support what they’re doing, I think that NASA should stick to their own space program, and leave the private space travel to those who have the budget and the time to devote to it.