Ground Zero Monologues

2/4/21: SPACE FARCE – Ground Zero with Clyde Lewis

todayFebruary 4, 2021 211 1

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MONOLOGUE WRITTEN BY CLYDE LEWIS

A few days ago, we observed the 35th anniversary of the Space Shuttle challenger explosion that killed seven brave astronauts.  After several successful shuttle missions and only two failures the shuttle program ended as it began – with no real new information about what is out there.  

Looking back at our failed space programs it is important to indicate that President Barack Obama crippled  NASA’s efforts to send astronauts beyond Low Earth Orbit. When Obama came into office, he did what a number of other presidents have done to determine their goals for NASA: he formed a presidential commission to study the space agency and come up with some recommendations.

The Augustine Commission, so named after its chairman former Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine, returned with a set of recommendations some months later. The commission found that the program then in existence, Project Constellation, was not executable under any reasonable budget. The program, started by President George W. Bush, had been underfunded and had faced technical challenges for years. The commissions offered two alternatives. 

The first was Moon First, which would have focused America’s efforts on a return to the moon. The second was Flexible Path, which would have sent American astronauts to every destination besides the moon—the asteroids, the moons of Mars, and so on. Both options would lead to the holy grail of space exploration enthusiasts, a mission to Mars.

The kicker was that both options would cost an extra $3 billion a year for NASA to execute. For the Obama administration, which was not shy about spending money in areas that it cared about, this price tag was too dear to bear. 

The government’s response was formulated in secret. The results of these private deliberations were rolled out in the 2011 budget request that was released in February 2010. Project Constellation would be canceled, root and branch. Instead, NASA would conduct studies of heavy-lift rockets, deep-space propulsion, and other technologies that it was said, in the fullness of time, would make exploring space cheaper and easier.

Congress, which had not been consulted, reacted with bipartisan fury. The Obama administration made two critical errors. It had not consulted with Congress or anyone else when it developed its plans to kill Constellation. 

The White House also blatantly pulled a bureaucratic dodge that was apparent even to a first-term member of the House from the sticks. To kill a popular program, one studies it to death. Nowhere in the Obama plan was there a commitment to send astronauts anywhere. Clearly, the White House had no intention of doing space exploration. President Obama had expressed an antipathy to American exceptionalism, and nothing speaks to that quality than American astronauts exploring other worlds.

On Tuesday morning, I was watching the White House Briefing. I just tuned into CNN and I saw the ginger haired press secretary Jen Psaki.  It was strange to see someone else at the podium other than the blonde and often coarse and snippy Kayleigh McEnany who often ate reporters for lunch.

The difference between the two was obvious.  Not just in looks but in attitude.

Not only that but she has this way of using corporate speak with the ever-annoying answer of “I will circle back to you on that” which is the equivalent of “let’s do lunch when you see an old acquaintance.”

She seems to reply to every question with I’ll have to just circle back with you on that– if it’s officially invoked in this moment, or if it takes some time. And we can circle back with you after the briefing. “SPACE FARCE”

Yes when I hear the term “I will circle back to too,” I figure it is a negation and an expression that indicates no transparency.

What was most surprising is that a reporter in the Press pool Bloomberg News reporter Josh Wingrove, asked about Biden’s opinion of Space Force. She looked surprised and mockingly said said “Wow. Space Force. It’s the plane of today!” Psaki scoffed. “It is an interesting question. I am happy to check with our Space Force point of contact. I’m not sure who that is? I will find out and see if we have any update on that. ”The reporter said “It is a valid question.”  

As noted by the Military Times, Space Force was initiated to be tasked with providing “space expertise to combatant commanders,” as well as to be “composed of personnel from all services, with experts in operations, intelligence, engineering … prepared to deploy teams of space operators to Europe and Pacific by next summer.” Space Force aims to improve upon U.S. counterintelligence as a whole.

It was the technology produced by the Space Force’s 2nd Space Warning Squadron at Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado that saved the lives of Americans from an incoming Iranian missile on Jan. 7, 2020. Luckily, there were only sustained injuries and no fatalities. This is because of an innovative Space-Based Infrared System. 

Referred to by President Trump as an “early warning system,” the object searches and detects missiles through satellites. The Space Force worked side-by-side with the Department of Defense and successfully deterred against the threat in reaction to the U.S. killing of Qassem Soleimani, utilizing the $20 million Lockheed Martin system.

The House Armed Services Committee requested that Psaki “immediately apologize” for her answer to Wingrove’s question, citing the legitimacy of Space Force. Some members of the House have cited foreign policy concerns, juxtaposing Biden’s perceived lighter stance on China than Trump’s.

Psaki knew that she was being a bit sardonic — and so she issued a lacks luster apology on Twitter:

She tweeted –We look forward to the continuing work of Space Force and invite the members of the team to come visit us in the briefing room anytime to share an update on their important work.

After disrespecting a branch of the armed Forces she was asked again if she would issue an apology for mocking space force and what is Biden’s position — is he going to get rid of it?

Well, Psaki circled back to her comments about Space Force, saying that it “has the full support of the Biden administration” and that “we are not revisiting the decision to establish the Space Force.”

I thought about what that even means — and after reading it over I realized that Biden is about to defund the space programs and that Space Force may not exist if he has his way even though the China and Russia are preparing to make it a fighting domain.

Today, the Washington Times confirmed speculations I made on a previous show — just like Obama we will have many of our space programs grounded — and quite possibly that money will go to combating climate change.

Although the United states has allegedly been to the moon and sent multiple, advanced probes to the surface of Mars, since the end of the Cold War, U.S. space policy has languished in neutral. Due to this, new competitors, namely China, have arisen to challenge the dominance of the Americans in the ultimate strategic high ground of space. 

China has grand ambitions for space. Not only does China plan on beating the Americans to the Martian surface by the end of the decade, but Beijing wants control of the vital orbits around the Earth. By controlling these orbits, China’s military would enjoy significant advantages over the American military. Beyond that, China plans on strip-mining the moon for valuable resources. 

Private companies like Space X, have always been the silver bullet in its competition with China for space dominance: a vibrant and innovative private sector. 

Thanks to his reusable rocket design, Elon Musk’s SpaceX company has already cut down on launch costs by a staggering 40 percent. SpaceX insists that it can cut those costs down further. What’s more, SpaceX rockets are entirely indigenously produced. And as the ongoing race to Mars between the United States and China intensifies, Mr. Musk’s new deep space reusable rocket Starship, might just be the vehicle that gets American astronauts to Mars before China can get its taikonauts to Mars.

Certainly, the Starship reusable rocket is unproven. In another America, the America that is innovative and shoots for the stars –this experimental craft would elicit wonder and its development would be encouraged. The Trump administration exhorted SpaceX to vigorously move ahead with its Starship program. 

The United States, however, has a new president with a mind that is clearly in a different century. And President Joe Biden is making his space policy preferences increasingly clear: America will remain grounded for the time being. 

On Jan. 28, SpaceX was set to put its Starship rocket through another test in the blue skies above Texas. The objective of the test was to get the massive rocket up to 12.5 kilometers — about seven miles — above the Earth and then spin the giant rocket around so that it could make a vertical landing. 

Sadly, the visionary goal of getting Americans to Mars first came crashing down when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which, under the Trump administration had allowed for SpaceX to conduct their important test flights, ordered Mr. Musk to cancel the Starship prototype test. 

The FAA did not cite its reasoning behind ordering the cancellation of the launch. Many have speculated that the cancellation was brought about due to safety concerns. After all, in December 2020, SpaceX did a test of the experimental rocket. The Starship prototype made it to a height of 41,000 feet. Once it reoriented itself, in order to allow for the rocket to land vertically, the spacecraft promptly did a belly flop that ended in a massive explosion. 

When musk finally got clearance there was another setback,

The latest prototype of SpaceX’s next-generation Starship rocket launched successfully on Tuesday but exploded on impact during an attempted landing. Starship prototype Serial Number 9, or SN9, aimed to fly as high as 10 kilometers, or about 32,800 feet altitude.

While the rocket flew successfully, it hit the ground explosively on its return, just as the SN8 flight did in December.

In science, the only lasting failure occurs when one does not test a new idea or hypothesis. This axiom is especially true in the context of the new space race between the United States and China. 

However these setbacks and FAA restrictions are being linked to Biden administration lack luster support for space projects.

Plus, former President Trump’s space vision was explicitly aimed at countering advances made by China in space. It is unlikely that the Biden administration seeks to continue that policy, as the Biden team attempts to stabilize deteriorating relations with Beijing over the next few years.

Concern over Mr. Musk’s Martian intentions is likely another factor for the lack of support.

Last year, Mr. Musk indicated that any future SpaceX Martian colony would not be “ruled by Earth-based laws.” The problem for Mr. Musk is that SpaceX has been awarded lucrative contracts by the Earth-based U.S. government. If SpaceX were to create a colony on Mars, because of the company’s contractual relationship with the U.S. government, Washington very much expects that colony to be an American endeavor. 

Again it is disappointing that Joe Biden much like Barack Obama has little interest in the race for space and would rather see China or Russia have dominance is the space race and weaponry. 

We, the American people — and the entire effort to beat China to Mars — suffer. The Biden administration’s decision to increase regulations on the private space launch services sector and slow down their operations, as evidenced by the recent Starship launch cancellation, will only help China in its ongoing mission to defeat America in the new space race.

Not only are the plans for a private launch to mars being slowed down — the Artemis program is also seeing a slump — that will push back it’s programs

NASA quietly pushed back the award time frame for two lunar lander contracts from late February to April 30th, including the lunar landing system contract involving Blue Origin, SpaceX and Dynetics. The space agency said it needed more time to evaluate proposals and maintain a “seamless transition” from the development phase, although it said there was a chance it would award contracts sooner than late April.

Blue Origin is working on its Blue Moon lander, while SpaceX is developing its Starship rocket. Dynetics is building a lander in a team-up with Sierra Nevada.

The setback doesn’t come as a shock. Congress only gave NASA’s Human Landing System project $850 million in its latest spending bill versus the $3.2 billion it said was necessary for the planned 2024 Moon touchdown. it does not help that NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine left as President Biden took office, leaving his deputy Steve Jurczyk in his place. The organization just doesn’t have the resources or direction it was expecting.

As such, the chances of NASA making its 2024 Artemis goal are that much slimmer. That’s also discounting any possible changes in priorities at NASA under the Biden administration. The new White House has focused much of its energy on dealing on immediate crises like the COVID-19 pandemic the resulting economic downturn and Climate Change . It may be reluctant to devote much (if any) attention to a Moon landing until the country is in better shape.

What we need to do is face the facts – Joe Biden has no clear plan for America– he is only pulling an Obama 2.0 —he sees space exploration as an America First project that his predecessor championed, and he is an old man that does not see the point in 21st century projects to protect this country from Russia or China.

So his policy is to put the space program on fade and then have his press secretary mock anyone who has an interest in future space programs and Space Force. 

 

Written by: Rob Daven

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Ground Zero Monologues

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