The Orion spacecapsule has returned successfully after it’s first real test… and I’m excited. Yet at the same time, I can’t help but feel it’s a hand-wave. The Orion is incredible… yet it is still feels like too little, too late.
Paul Bertorelli wrote an excellent article (below) that matches a lot of my feelings on the subject.
The private industry is trying, too, but as seen by the recent setback with Virgin Galactic, they are not quite where we might hope they could be. The problem, quite simply is money. Space expansion and exploration requires a lot of money, and even with very wealthy private investors, such as Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson, they have far lower budgets than NASA could have, in theory. But NASA doesn’t have the money, or focus, to make manned exploration (much less expansion/colonization) a priority. Part of that is politics. Space isn’t a priority to the average US citizen, because the media (movies, news, etc) focus on the expense, the danger, and the cost. The recent movie, Interstellar, garnered a lot of criticism, not because of its plot, but because the theme was stay and die or get out into space and propagate. A note of how much certain people hate our own race where a message of expand our horizons or die was criticized in that survival was seen as the wrong choice.
Against that measure, Orion is a step in the right direction… a very slow step, but still a step. But what can you and I do to improve this? Talk to your friends, your family, have the discussions about the potential and importance of space travel. Fight the dialogue that says that space is a waste. Fight the people who think that ‘we need to stay here and not ruin the stars’ and rubbish like that. Make it a topic of conversation, make it important to other people, light that spark… or else we may never take that next step, we may never go back to the moon, much less to other worlds. That, I think, would be a great tragedy.