< Rant >
TOTALLY OT, but go with me on this anyway, as M is pretty well known for its work with the space program.
The White House today axed the shuttle replacement and all plans for a future trip to the moon. The Moon I don't care about so much. We do need to return, but not until a concrete and ready plan for a permanent encampment, which will require more advanced drives for shorter flights, etc, is ready. I'm not sure if the 2020 Goal left enough time to set that up.
The cancellation of the shuttle replacement, however, is extremely disappointing. The message is quite clear. "We do not need a manned space flight program." And frankly, this is the most disgusting thing I've ever heard.
For ages, one of man's greatest dreams and goals was to reach the stars. We finally do, and 50 years of it is enough? No more? That's downright offensive. We should have such a narrow vision that cutting a program of such grandeur, wonder, and inspiration to protect a political party's grip? The only reason anyone even wants to see NASA's budget cut is because NASA hasn't done anything "epic" lately, thanks to their dramatically cut budget! In my entire life, I have not seen one person leave low earth orbit. I'm a major space freak, and even I am somewhat bored of the space program. It's a wonder school kids today even look up at night.
Furthermore, the new plan is to utilize private industry when we need to put people into space, under the pretense that this saves money from the government budget.
PRIVATE INDUSTRY IS ALREADY WHAT BUILDS OUR SPACECRAFT! There is no NASA Factory somewhere. Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and others are contracted by NASA to design and build our spacecraft. They're not going to do it themselves. There's no money in spaceflight without government contracts.
So all we've really succeeded in doing is demoralizing the space program and hurting its ability to perform its primary task even further, lessening public interest in an important scientific field, and saving maybe a few million in overhead that could have lead to trillions in profitable discoveries and high quality public support... all for a few headlines and maybe a congressional seat.
Good work, White House. You suck.
< /Rant >