Since Discovery docked yesterday, the number of visiting vehicles is up to five – the Russian Progress supply ship and Soyuz lifeboat, the Japanese HTV, and the European ATV-2 are all there. (So is the the Canadian Dextre robot.) There are also now 12 personnel on board! Article here.
THIS IS FRACKING HUGE, FOLKS! (Sorry.) Most people don’t even know we have people in space, or if they do, so what? It’s not the wheel-shaped station from “2001” we hoped for, but it’s a serious presence in orbit.
And we do it on a shoestring. With the trillions of dollars thrown around as deficits, and the tens of billions thrown around here and there in talking about how Obama and Congress might help this problem or that, NASA’s entire budget – manned and unmanned – is less than three quarters of one per cent of the national budget. (In FY 2008 it was 0.6 per cent.) That’s under 19 billion dollars a year, folks. And that includes all the unmanned missions, infrastructure, the upkeep on the facilities, etc.
By the way, in 1966 – the biggest year, by percentage of the budget – it was just over four percent. And this was when the major expenditures in infrastructure for the Apollo program were being made – things like launch pads, the space center in Houston, that sort of thing. Not so much flying hardware.
If we had four per cent of the budget consistently, every year since 1966, I’d be writing this on the Moon, and watching broadcasts from the Martian outposts!
Oh, and by the way…here’s a quote from the end of the article referenced above:
“It may be a decade before the American space program can create a new heavy lift rocket and crew capsule to bring astronauts to space again, NASA’s chief technologist said.”
OK, maybe I should take back what I said about giving them more money. I mean, do some of these guys even read? I don’t know if Elon Musk is laughing right now or banging his head against the wall…