"Without an eye towards the future, we flounder in the present."
Dr. Ride wrote these words in her report way back in 1987. Her words were truly prescient. The US has, for the last quarter century, been floundering, simply because there has been no eye towards the future. We have spent the last decades furiously spinning around in orbit, looking for stuff to do. And we did great stuff; don't get me wrong. But NASA was supposed to be the innovator; the agency that would lead the way, then others would follow. NASA became a political tool instead of an expand-human-reach-and-knowledge tool. Too bad. The potential we had was enormous.
The Ride report was commissioned shortly after the Challenger Accident in 1986, and was published the following year. Curiously, it resembled NASA's Integrated Program Plan (IPP) that had been published over a decade prior.
More after the jump...
The report called for a vibrant space program, complete with Space Stations, Orbital Transfer Vehicles, Lunar Landers, a Moon base, etc.; you know, the stuff that would have fueled the imaginations of millions of nerdy kids (like your humble author).
The best quote from the report comes from the preface:
We must ask ourselves: “Where do we want to be at the turn of the century?” and "What do we have to do now to get there?" Without an eye toward the future, we flounder in the present. It is riot too early to crystallize our vision of the space program in the year 2000. A clear vision provides a framework for current and future programs: it enables us to know which technologies to pursue, which launch vehicles to develop, and which features to incorporate into our Space Station as it evolves.Well, so much for the year 2000. We are now in the second half of the year 2012, and we are no closer to the dream of a strong space program than we were even 40 years ago. Politicians have been, and still are today, just too afraid to spend the money necessary to get the job done in space.
Everyone knows that we spend over half a trillion dollars PER YEAR on the defense of our country, more than all of our allies combined. What the defense industry doesn't realize is that if they spent part of that money on space exploration, they would still make megabucks on their investments. Making money from spaceships would probably be just as lucrative as making money from warships.