Monday, February 1, 2010

I'm a space nut but...

I'm not disappointed by Obama's cancellation of the Ares rocket development and plans to return to the moon and go from there to Mars.

This post explains mostly why. It's "over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation", as Obama puts it. Private ventures promise to be much more innovative, cheap, and most importantly in argument against pro-NASA rhetoric, exciting.

Additionally, I'm biased in favor of cosmology rather than planetary science. With one telescope for a couple hundred million dollars in Hawaii or in orbit, we can learn about the entire structure and evolution of the universe. With a hundred BILLION dollars, we can repeat something already accomplished 40 years ago and get a slightly more detailed analysis of one or two tiny little rocks in one solar system in one galaxy.

Maybe those rocks are potentially more useful than learning about superclusters of galaxies, but, well, I majored in math; I obviously care more about what's interesting than what's useful. And in any case, that's all the more reason to do the planetary science privately. The reason to publicly fund the space program is because it's worth doing but either too expensive to be done privately* or too useless to be done privately. This is still true for cosmology (useless) but not planetary exploration (much cheaper than it used to be, and useful.)

*I definitely don't want to encourage the misperception that NASA is a huge part of the Federal budget though. It's tiny. As is foreign aid. For some reason, Americans think we spend much more on both of those things than we really do.