Does Space Matter Anymore?

From the LiveScience Water Cooler.

Maybe, again, yes. Sure! Scientists inside and outside NASA have been arguing about where to go out there ever since George W. Bush's grand space plan was announced in 2004. Bush's sweeping vision was to put humans back on the moon by 2020 and then head for Mars.

Many experts and analysts (and scientists and politicians) have long felt the plan had no White House muscle behind it, however. Neat ideas, no muster to carry them out.

Now our sister publication Space News points out President-elect Barack Obama has offered more specifics about his plans for NASA than any U.S. presidential candidate in history. He pledged to add $2 billion to the U.S. space agency's budget to narrow the gap between the space shuttle's retirement and the first flight of its successor. Whether that results in getting humans out of Earth orbit remains to be seen, of course, especially in today's tight budget environment.

Obama also endorses sending human missions to the Moon by 2020. But we all know things are different now.

"Unfortunately, some of these commitments could potentially yield to other commitments made regarding new fiscal realities and timing," said Mark Albrecht, a former top aerospace executive who helped advise McCain on space issues.

Many space enthusiasts remain ambitious: They just want a plan to put humans on Mars, period. Leonard David, a columnist at our other sister publication, SPACE.com, now reports a new plan will be floated up from the ranks this week for Obama and Congress to consider. It was reportedly written "with an eye to the world's current economic situation" yet calls for "vigorous" exploration.