There is a lot of discussion today about the Obama administration's apparent changes in NASA and in direction for the US Space Program. The cancellation of the Constellation program is hotly debated. There has been the argument that while the cancellation of the Constellation program will definitely impact those companies invested in it's development the same money will be distributed to many more small businesses to develop our commercial space program. At first glance that may seem like a good thing but I think this will not only hurt the US Space Program but will result in fewer dollars being spent in the US. I would suggest you read the statement published by former astronaut and senator John Glenn on June 17, 2010 regarding the changes in the space program. Senator Glenn makes quite a few good points but I think the most telling are 1) we don't have heavy lift or human lift capability with retirement of the shuttle this year & cancellation of the Constellation & 2) we will have to pay the Russians to put US astronauts into orbit for the foreseeable future. Senator Glenn points out that it costs roughly $400 Million per shuttle launch (with capacity to send 6 or 7 astronauts per mission) where we will have to pay the Russians $55.8 Million per astronaut to get to orbit. So, for a crew change of 6 in the International Space Station (which is really a US funded laboratory) it will cost NASA $335 Million. But this money is being transferred outside the US, not to US contractors as the $400 Million would be to launch the Shuttle. So a big portion of the NASA budget in the near future will be going to Russia and not to US government contractors. Why not extend the shuttle program (there is life left in the vehicles) and keep the money flowing to US government contractors? This does not even address the Constellation vs. commercial space vehicle development (those dollars will be spent in the US regardless of the choice). I think it is time we support John Glenn, the Space Shuttle program and good old fashion investment of our space dollars in the US. So let's protect the industry that we still lead the world in - space exploration. By the way, Happy Birthday to the greatest nation on earth!
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