Many of you may or may not have heard about President Obama’s budget plan for NASA. Long story short, it signals what I consider to be a new mandate from Bush-era NASA policy, with some positive side affects as well. Why am I writing about this on a Peace Corps blog? Well, because I want to. So there.
This whole thing started with the latest shuttle mission heading off a couple nights ago, which got me just thinking about space. Shuttle Endeavor blasted off to bring a new module to the International Space Station, the Tranquility cupola, which will provide ISS teams with unique perspectives for observing the Earth. For the unaware, the space shuttle program is scheduled to be stopped at the end of this year (though slips into early 2011 may be allowed). The last five shuttle missions include this and another Endeavor mission, two Discovery missions and a single Atlantis mission. Four major components will be added to the ISS in these five missions, as well as two spare parts runs. No new crew will be brought to the ISS however, as the last shuttle mission performed the last crew rotation of the shuttle’s career.
What does all this mean? What does the new budget mean? Why do I even care? I have always loved the space program, as nobody else seemed to be doing anything cool in space, so I was happy that at least our government was. A lot of times people would complain: why have a space program if we can’t even solve our own problems here? Well, having worked in development now for a year (and hey look, I did make a Peace Corps connection), I am becoming more and more comfortable with the notion that advancement at the top really can affect the bottom line. Not all advancement of course, and sadly here I see more examples of this not work than working, but advancements made by organizations such as NASA really did impact the everyday lives of America. And come on, who can deny someone their right to dream? If a person was living comfortably enough to reach for the stars, so be it and don’t chastise his dream! Dreams are critical to a culture’s development.