The Successor to the Saturn V is coming…by 2017.

I thought we had mastered rocket technology a long time ago? I’m sure the latest iteration will use computer technology and other advanced systems that are impossible for use on the old Saturn V but damn if it isn’t going to take forever and a day to get back into space. What amazes me the most is the incompetence of our politicians, or NASA for that matter, in not having a replacement program in place when the shuttle retirement was announced. Now it is going to be at least six years before we are even launching a test flight for the new rocket, and another fifteen or so years until regular missions are able to take place. In the meantime, we will rely on the Russians to get us to the International Space Station using their Soyuz rocket technology which has its origins in the same era as that of the Saturn rockets, namely, the Space Race of the 1960s and early 1970s. It is hard not to take the state of America’s space program as indicative of our lessening position in the world or as indication of the dire state of our finances but really it seems to be a compounding of bureaucratic and political incompetence that would make even the most stalwart patriot shudder in disbelief. Who really won the space race if we are now having to use Russian rockets to get to the ISI? Why was the moon the end point and not just the beginning? Certainly space does not hold the same romantic allure as it did in the past, nor are we faced with a hegemonic rival on the other side of the world with supposedly ill-meaning intentions for space. I advocate cooperation in space, particularly between the United States and Russia and I hope that such cooperation continues indefinitely in the future because I think the Russians are a valuable, competent and worthy partner in these endeavors. One cannot help by feel that this is wrong, though, on so many levels: that the United States has been robbed of her ability to unilaterally send humans into orbit. The new rocket being developed is going to be used for deep space exploration and will contain a living habitat for its occupants yet its distance on the horizon makes these promises vague and unfulfilling. Sure, it will be nice when it arrives, but don’t be shocked if budget cuts reduce the ‘deep space rocket that is going to explore asteroids and Mars’ to ‘a rocket that takes us into space and returns us safely.’ Such it is with the confused system of politics, bureaucracy and international relations.

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