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NASA Isn’t Really Planning on Some Big Space Settlement Thing

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Space settlements are fun topics for movies. There are a lot of space advocates thinking about how to do it, and looking to NASA to take the lead. It’s fun to think about, but it’s not happening.

From Spacepolitics-

Some people in the space advocacy community have a long term goal that goes beyond going back to the Moon or sending human expeditions to Mars: they want to see people working and living—permanently—in space. From the early visions of space colonies by the L-5 Society to the modern-day desire of Mars Society members to establish an outpost of human civilization on the Red Planet, these people want to do more than explore space; they want to see people making it their home. Should that vision be part of national space policy—or is it already?

Over the last 18 months advocates of space settlement have been getting mixed messages from the White House and NASA leadership on this topic. In his speech at the Kennedy Space Center in April 2010, President Obama appeared to endorse, albeit indirectly, the concept of space settlement: “Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn and operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time, ultimately in ways that are more sustainable and even indefinite.” Obama never used the “s-word”—settlement—but the idea of living and working in space in “indefinite” ways certainly sounds like it.

But at a town hall meeting at the Johnson Space Center in late September, NASA administrator Charles Bolden seemed to suggest space settlement was not part of the agency’s vision. “Bolden says we’re not looking for other places to live, [we're] going to explore to better understand our place in universe and life on Earth…”

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One Response to “NASA Isn’t Really Planning on Some Big Space Settlement Thing”

  • mike shupp:

    I’ve a comment or three in the thread over at spacepolitics.com and may choose to add to them, so I won’t repeat myself here. I’ll just note that I continue to be fascinated by three observations:
    (a) Charles Bolden’s statements and speeches continue to draw more scrutiny from reporters and space enthusiasts than those of any previous NASA administrator
    (b) No previous NASA administrator has had as little control over what he might say in public than Charles Bolden
    (c) NASA has never been as inconsequential in public affairs since it was founded

    None of these observations seems to merit debate. The third is the interesting one, however. It’s long been a truism that support for the US space program was “a mile wide and an inch deep.” People had — most of them anyhow — warm fuzzy feelings about present day and future space programs, unless they blamed NASA for their high taxes. That’s changed for some reason. The support’s dried up. People take Hubble and unmanned scientific programs for granted, but support for manned programs has virtually vanished. After all those space-related movies and television shows and computer games, it’s probably as hard to persuade people in 2011 of the benefits of space colonization as it was in 1931.

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