COMMENTARY | The House Science Committee held a hearing about the National Research Council’s report on the future of space exploration. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels and Dt. Jonathan Lunine, the co-chairs of the study were in the witness chairs.
The hearings had the aspect of the surreal about them. On the one hand there seems to be broad agreement about what ails NASA’s space exploration. It lacks a proper direction and it lacks proper funding. The question of what to do about it has been left hanging.
Essentially the NRC report suggested that NASA be given a modest five percent annual funding increase. It also took a dim view of the Asteroid Redirect Mission and hinted strongly that it should go back to the moon and, perhaps, visit an asteroid “in its native orbit” on the way to Mars.
Of course with the Senate in the hands of Democrats and the current president not inclined to take direction from outside experts, that chance of that happening before January, 2017 are about nil. Still, going a new direction with adequate funding is a good subject to talk about, setting the stage for the next president to make sensible space policy.
The one controversial suggestion that the NRC report contained, which was to take on China as a a space partner, got a sharp and pithy response from Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA. He suggested that it would be the rough equivalent of setting up a joint space mission with Nazi Germany, circa 1937. This was not a violation of Godwin’s Law since Red China has certainly slaughtered perhaps hundreds of millions during the six and a half years of its existence. In a way the Nazis were pikers compared to China after the communist takeover.
The bottom line is that we know where we need to proceed in space exploration and even roughly how, though there is some room for argument in the latter. We just can’t go ahead just yet.