FINALLY! Some Exciting NASA News!

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Oh, The Pink Flamingo LIKES this one!  It is exciting, forward, and just plain right.  It is the next logical step, and a good one.  Just a few days after the final orbiter was put out to pasture, taking a victory lap, we get this.  Funny, but this morning I was looking at our local paper, showing Endeavor’s flyby at White Sands.  I was in tears.  I didn’t go, because I just couldn’t watch it.

I like this!  It is so do-able! If the Obama Administration pushes it, The Pink Flamingo will take back every nasty thing I’ve ever said.  Let’s be brutally honest here.  Mitt Romney will never ever ever even consider this one.  If Obama wants Florida, he will push it. We know Bill Nelson will.  Space is my primary mission in life.  This one is just incredible.

“…Top NASA officials have picked a leading candidate for the agency’s next major mission: construction of an outpost that would send astronauts farther from Earth than they’ve ever been.

Called the gateway spacecraft, it would hover in orbit on the far side of the moon, support a small crew and function as a staging area for future missions to the moon and Mars.

At 277,000 miles from Earth, the outpost would be far more remote than the current space station, which orbits a little more than 200 miles above Earth. The distance raises complex questions of how to protect astronauts from the radiation of deep space — and of how to rescue them if something goes wrong.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden briefed the White House earlier this month on details of the proposal, but it was unclear whether the agency had the administration’s support. Of critical importance is the cost, which would probably be billions, if not tens of billions, of dollars.

Documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel show that NASA wants to build a small outpost — likely with parts left over from the $100-billion International Space Station — at what’s known as the Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 2, a spot about 38,000 miles from the moon.

At that location, the combined gravities of the Earth and moon reach equilibrium, making it possible to “stick” an outpost there with minimal power required to keep it in place.

To get there, NASA would use the massive rocket and space capsule that it is developing as a successor to the retired space shuttle. A first flight of that rocket is planned for 2017, and construction of the outpost would begin two years later, …”

I like this one.  It is logical, not as expensive, and we basically have the technology.  This puts the construction of the new outpost around 2019 – just seven years from now. Once it is finished, it is just plain old simple to go back to the Moon.   Sure, there are problems, but it is like sending the Mayflower, after the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria!

LA Times

Years ago, while Ronald Reagan was still President of the United States, The Pink Flamingo was part of a committee designed to create an award to be given to the first woman to step on the Moon.  It is called the Karoline Mikkelson  Award. We have a magnificent trophy which is in storage at the moment.  Over the years, I’ve mourned the fact that we will ever be able to give it to an American woman.  For the first time in many years, I have hope. 

We all know Mitt Romney is going to do nothing about promoting NASA.  He doesn’t give a damn about the country or our future.

I spent 25 years in business. If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say, ‘You’re fired.’ … The idea that corporate America wants to go off to the moon and build a colony there, it may be a big idea, but it’s not a good idea.” …”

This is the one single reason why The Pink Flamingo will never ever vote for Mitt Romney.

There is also some interesting news about future funding.  If we are to advance, the entire culture at NASA needs to be changed.  We need long-term commitments, and the willingness to accept the fact that space exploration is a very dangerous job.  People are going to lose their lives, for the future.  When this happens, we can’t simply shut down the world, and have a five year investigation.  Stop the grand-standing and start back to work.

It’s called the Space Leadership Act. And, it is well needed.  From Aviation Week:

“…Attempting to get the attention of the presidential campaigns and aiming to remove politics from space policy, House Republicans have introduced a bill that would overhaul the way NASA is funded and expand the use of multiyear NASA contracts.

The bill would create a 10-year term for the NASA administrator — similar to the term served by FBI directors. And it would call on the space agency to submit a budget directly to Congress alongside the administration’s request that would have been vetted by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“We’re going to finally get an honest, clear budget request from NASA, without being filtered by OMB,” says bill sponsor John Culberson (R-Texas).

The legislation would allow NASA to expand the use of long-term contracts beyond the Evolvable Expendable Launch Vehicle to rocket propulsion systems, space transportation vehicles, payloads and related services.

The bill would create a board to oversee the agency, similar to the way that the National Science Foundation is governed. To guard against conflicts of interest, no board member would be able to work for a company doing business with NASA. The board would have the authority to remove the administrator.

If the bill is passed out of the House Science Committee in the lame-duck session after the election, it could be included in a full-year continuing resolution early next year, says co-sponsor Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.)….”

The Pink Flamingo is finally happy!  The problem is budget.

“...At 277,000 miles from Earth, the outpost would be far more remote than the current space station, which orbits a little more than 200 miles above Earth. The distance raises complex questions of how to protect astronauts from the radiation of deep space — and rescue them if something goes wrong.

NASA Chief Charlie Bolden briefed the White House earlier this month on details of the proposal, but it’s unclear whether it has the administration’s support. Of critical importance is the price tag, which would certainly run into the billions of dollars.

Documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel show that NASA wants to build a small outpost — likely with parts left over from the $100 billion International Space Station — at what’s known as the Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 2, a spot about 38,000 miles from the moon and 277,000 miles from Earth.

At that location, the combined gravities of the Earth and moon reach equilibrium, making it possible to “stick” an outpost there with minimal power required to keep it in place.

To get there, NASA would use the massive rocket and space capsule that it is developing as a successor to the retired space shuttle. A first flight of that rocket is planned for 2017, and construction of the outpost would begin two years later, according to NASA planning documents.

Potential missions include the study of nearby asteroids or dispatching robotic trips to the moon that would gather moon rocks and bring them back to astronauts at the outpost. The outpost also would lay the groundwork for more-ambitious trips to Mars’ moons and even Mars itself, about 140 million miles away on average.

Placing a “spacecraft at the Earth-Moon Lagrange point beyond the moon as a test area for human access to deep space is the best near-term option to develop required flight experience and mitigate risk,” concluded the NASA report.

From NASA’s perspective, the outpost solves several problems.

It gives purpose to the Orion space capsule and the Space Launch System rocket, which are being developed at a cost of about $3 billion annually. It involves NASA’s international partners, as blueprints for the outpost suggest using a Russian-built module and components from Italy. And the outpost would represent a baby step toward NASA’s ultimate goal: human footprints on Mars.

But how the idea — and cost — play with President Barack Obama, Congress and the public remains a major question. The price tag is never mentioned in the NASA report.

Spending is being slashed across the federal government in the name of deficit reduction; it’s unlikely that NASA in coming years can get more than its current budget of $17.7 billion — if that….”

Keep your fingers crossed.  We need something big and grand to focus our eyes on something big and grand, to take our place in the stars, where we belong.  To those libertarian fools, who don’t want government doing anything like this, The Pink Flamingo will leave you with two words:  Lewis & Clark.

Their expedition was given $2,500 from a nearly bankrupt Congress, with a letter of credit, authorizing $39,000.  Thomas Jefferson was a very big spender, who had recently chucked out $3,000,000 for some real estate.  He basically broke the bank.  Still, he had the vision to out fit an expedition to cross the country and explore it.  The expedition was far more dangerous than going to the Moon.  Today, the cost of the Lewis & Clark Expedition would be about $1.3 billion.

The Glenn Beck bunch likes to point to Thomas Jefferson as thrifty, and oh so libertarian.  His little 2003 real estate purchase, which cost $3,000,000 then, would cost about $93,900,000,000.00 today.  You may need to put that into perspective.

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