Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Bush, Kerry space policies: lame
Burt Rutan: not lame

Despite being a space nut, I've written little about space issues here. Enough of that -I want to point out this Kerry criticism of Bush's manned space program here. Kerry is half right that Bush is assuming he can send astronauts to the moon and Mars without increased funding and that creating goals without funding them is lame. What Kerry doesn't say is whether he believes the Bush goals should be funded, or abandoned. Kerry also doesn't say if he agrees with Bush that the Shuttle and space station should be phased out, but Kerry does say he supports researching cheap low-earth orbit technology and microgravity research, which sounds like code words for improving the Shuttle and saving the space station. Improving the Shuttle won't be cheap, ever, microgravity research is overblown and inefficient when done by humans instead of robots, and Bush's ideas will be budget-busters.

Bottom line is that Kerry wants to revert to Clinton's lame manned-space policies, while Bush has come up with new, lame, manned-space policies. Not too inspiring. On the other hand, the Democrats have probably spent about 10 seconds thinking about space policy, so maybe they'll have something more interesting to say by the convention.

Burt Rutan is much better - the designer of the private manned space rocket that flew yesterday, despite some problems. What the government should do is cancel its $6 billion-a-year manned program, pay off the Europeans and Japanese for their incurred costs of building space station components (a one-time payment of several billion dollars), and start funding more prizes like the one that is inspiring the current private space race.

Odds of this happening? Low, but possible - if another Shuttle blows up. I wish it could happen some other way.

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