America’s eroding geopolitical stature, highlighted by the July 21, 2011, end to flights of the United States Space Shuttle, has reached crisis proportions. Obama Administration officials now spin the nebulous thought of Astronauts flying many months to an undetermined asteroid in 2025 as an actual “National Space Policy”. On the other hand, Republican candidates for President have not yet recognized the importance of international civil space competition in the federal government’s constitutional function to provide for the nation’s “common defence”. Candidates appear to be uninterested in having the United States lead deep space exploration, including the establishment of American settlements on the Moon; or may actually consider Obama’s unfocused proposals as being credible rather than realizing that those proposals would transfer geopolitical dominance to China and control of American space transport to Russia.
Although the Bush Administration and Congress did not follow through with adequate funding, at least the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration put forth by President Bush and approved by Congress was a legitimate formulation of a National Space Policy. It implicitly recognized that America’s best security interests would not be served by being dependent on Russia for access to space or by ceding to China both deep space exploration and access to space resources. Unfortunately, with the acquiescence of Congress in 2010, President Obama cancelled what had become known as NASA’s Constellation Program – a program designed to maintain and expand America’s hard-won position as the world’s leading space-faring nation. Meanwhile, China is building a major new deep space launch facility in Hainan and developing new rockets and spacecraft to take over the exploration of the Moon from the United States and the free world.
A properly funded Constellation Program, would have returned Americans and their partners to the Moon, begun creation of the infrastructure and operational capabilities to settle there and go to Mars and beyond, and provided a timely replacement for the aging Space Shuttle. Assuming that the Obama Administration actually requests authorization and budget authority to implement a human mission to a near-Earth asteroid (NEO), including the required heavy lift rockets, specialized spacecraft, operational infrastructure, and hiring authority, how would such a mission stack up relative to returning to the Moon?
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