The recent ending of the Shuttle programme has been seen as the end of an era, it is not being replaced by anything anytime soon and may not be replaced at all given that those united states are broke. When NASA was first formed, it was a hive of innovation and activity, the people there were ambitious and had big dreams, within a decade of being established it had got men to the Moon and there was talk of going to Mars. Similarly the Soviet space programme did much in the first few years of its life and then, well as with so many government programmes, they became make work projects, instead of innovative programmes.
Since the Moon landings, we have had many interesting missions, mostly unmanned exploration of Mars by the rovers, the Saturnian system by Casisni, the Voyager missions and the recent New Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres. As much as these unmanned missions do, they don’t really seem to be as dramatic as manned missions, and it seems that we will not see any manned missions anywhere other than near Earth orbit anytime soon.
I have mentioned the Orion project that was developed at NASA in the fifties, this project was binned in favour of the Apollo project and has been all but forgotten since. If we could update the Orion project, perhaps using thorium instead of uranium or plutonium, we could see missions, manned and unmanned to the outer reaches of the Solar System that could be carried out on timelines closer to weeks and months, rather than years and decades as it currently is using conventional chemical fuels.
But is it good to see NASA wound down? I think it is, if government had been in control of mobile phones, can one ever imagine the development of things such as the smart phone? Could you imagine the drop in price of payment plans? Unlimited free texts, three hundred free minutes of talk time, free wifi, 1bG of 3G et al. Can you imagine the government being in charge of computers? Would the laptop ever have been invented? Would we have seen tablets and 2TB hard drives?
Whilst the free exchange of ideas in the free market can push innovation, force technological progress and take chances, in government bureaucracies the opposite is the case, too many people are afraid of good change, they resist anything that could be dangerous, there is an attitude of being careful and not rocking the boat, waiting until one can retire. NASA is the latter.
It is my hope that the shrivelling of the bureaucratic space agencies, we will see the beginning of innovative entrepreneurial space exploration and exploitation. There is much that could be good and healthy about getting off this world which has become overly regulated, over governed, over controlled by the deadening hand of bureaucrats, it could be a chance for people to escape the persecution and oppression of the incestuous elites, it could be a chance for people to create new homes on new worlds and could become a new age of discovery, a new age of unrivalled wealth creation.