For whatever reason, the Washington Post has allowed Charles Krauthammer to rant on and on about how horrible President Obama is for cutting the line item from the federal budget that would send astronaut Mike Dexter into low-earth orbit, to fight the Mooninites, who only recently threatened to destroy Boston, home of Republican hero himbo Scott Brown!
By the end of this year, there will be no shuttle, no U.S. manned space program, no way for us to get into space. We're not talking about Mars or the moon here. We're talking about low-Earth orbit, which the United States has dominated for nearly half a century and from which it is now retiring with nary a whimper.
Our absence from low-Earth orbit was meant to last a few years, the interval between the retirement of the fatally fragile space shuttle and its replacement with the Constellation program (Ares booster, Orion capsule, Altair lunar lander) to take astronauts more cheaply and safely back to space.
But the Obama 2011 budget kills Constellation. Instead, we shall have nothing. For the first time since John Glenn flew in 1962, the United States will have no access of its own for humans into space -- and no prospect of getting there in the foreseeable future.
We will have no way of putting humans into space for the foreseeable future! In other news, we will have no way of putting humans into jobs for the foreseeable future. Also: no way of controlling escalating health care costs for humans for the foreseeable future. In fact, all in favor of just canceling the "foreseeable future" entirely, for the foreseeable future, please follow me on Twitter.
BUT FRACK THAT, WHAT ABOUT THE SPACE TRIPS, FOR THE HUMANS? Surely the beloved "invisible hands" of the "free market" will carry us there, right, Charles?
It would be swell for private companies to take over launching astronauts. But they cannot do it. It's too expensive. It's too experimental. And the safety standards for getting people up and down reliably are just unreachably high.
DAMN YOU, FREE MARKET!
Here are some other astounding insights from Krauthammer:
Sure, decades from now there will be a robust private space-travel industry. But that is a long time.
Why isn't Obama building a "deficit-neutral" inter-dimensional tesseract, to fold the continuum of time itself, so that "decades from now" are no longer "a long time?" Such a device would permit legislation to bypass Max Baucus's pointless delays, if nothing else.
And then we get some stuff that makes me wonder if Krauthammer wrote this on peyote:
As for Mars, more nonsense. Mars is just too far away. And how do you get there without the stepping stones of Ares and Orion? If we can't afford an Ares rocket to get us into orbit and to the moon, how long will it take to develop a revolutionary new propulsion system that will take us not a quarter-million miles but 35 million miles?
To say nothing of the effects of long-term weightlessness, of long-term cosmic ray exposure, and of the intolerable risk to astronaut safety involved in any Mars trip -- six months of contingencies vs. three days for a moon trip.
He has really thought long and hard about these things!
At any rate, Krauthammer is basically bent out of shape about how we're now ceding interstellar travel to the Russians and the Chinese, and how Obama should do as Kennedy did and "[dedicate] astronomical sums" to the space program: "Obama's NASA budget perfectly captures the difference in spirit between Kennedy's liberalism and Obama's. Kennedy's was an expansive, bold, outward-looking summons. Obama's is a constricted, inward-looking call to retreat."
Doesn't Obama understand we are at war, with space, I guess?