Please, Mr. Cain--Don't Kill Commerical Space

NOTE:  This blog is about SPACE, not about politics, but sometimes politics affects space, as we all know.  Today, I'm venturing into politics.  Anyone who comments outside the topic of this blog, especially if it is inflammatory, will have their comment deleted.  We're all intelligent, reasoning adults here, so please don't let politics turn you into something else.

In 2010, Obama announced that he was going to scrap NASA's near-space missions and leave them to commercial interests while setting NASA's goals toward longer distance and space research.  Now, as candidates campaign, we're seeing some pushback on that policy.  Last week, Herman Cain, who is running for the Republican candidacy, said that President Obama “has cut our space program to the point that we now have to bum a ride with the Russians in order to get to outer space." I have to admit, I'm disappointed and concerned about his approach for a couple of reasons:
  • The Shuttle was way beyond its life and needed to be retired.
  • The space program was already on the decline as a result of several administrations (back to Clinton, really) when we didn't start working consistently on a replacement for the shuttle.
  • Each administration (especially if it's the opposite party from the one before) changes the goals, programs, etc., at least in part because it was the other guy's program and they can do better.
So blaming Obama is really typical political grandstanding, and while I'm not surprised, especially in a speech in Huntsville, AL, home for NASA, I'm concerned about what Cain--or any candidate--will do about government or commercial space once in office.

Now, Cain has not given any specifics on what exactly he would do to "relaunch our space program," but he did say, "It's not just about getting to the moon and outer space. The space program inspires other technological advances to business and the economy. In the Cain presidency, it will be reversed back to where it should be."  (Huntsville Times)  Does that mean back to NASA making trucks for the ISS or back to making the US a major space power?

Granted, space is a low political priority, although I agree that it is a point of national pride, a growing industry and a vital step to our future.  However, as Cain said in his same speech, governments don't grow the economy; businesses do.  So, by extension, if we want to have a growing space industry (a manned space industry in this case), we need to get the commercial space businesses involved.  Supplying the ISS is a good start.  Just because we don't want to "bum a ride" with the Russians, doesn't mean we need to turn NASA into a taxi service again.

Loved ya, Shuttle, but it's time to move on.

I'll be watching with interest to see what other potential candidates say about the space issue.  If you see an article, please send it my way!

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Andrea Graham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrea Graham said...

From what I've read Cain is a CEO who loves to work his way to the top of the restaurant chain, or else take on failing companies and turn them around. I think he thrives on that challenge and simply sees NASA, and the Federal Government, as another "failing company" for him take on and turn around. He thinks like a CEO and wants to accomplish for the Executive Branch the same things he did in the private sector. On track to where it should be to him would mean simply profitable, growing, and achieving it's goals. Being a competitive company, if not leader in your industry, is also a typical goal, so that is what he likely means.

Karina Fabian said...

Andrea, that's an interesting analysis, and if indeed that's what he means--make NASA an effective as well as efficient space industry--I'm all for it. I'm not a big Obama fan (as most of my readers know) but I was glad to see him change the focus of NASA to deeper space and give room to commercial space for the near-Earth stuff. Perhaps Cain will see this as a "new market." :) Thanks for commenting!

Andrea Graham said...

You're welcome! One thing I've seen from Cain so far is he's more adaptable than what we're used to, willing to learn from mistakes and gather all the information before making a decision. He doesn't strike me as someone we'd have to worry about either flip-flopping with the tides of public opinion, or stubbornly staying the course of an ideological agenda that practically isn't working. That and the insiders not liking him is what I like about him. He has to continue to prove himself true, though. We've been bitten a lot. He initially ended up at the top of my list because everyone else got scratched off.

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