Constellation program cut: space race no more

Several months ago, as the Obama administration started examining NASA's budget critically, I suggested that what American education could really use was a space race. Who would we be racing against?

Several months ago, as the Obama administration started examining NASA's budget critically, I suggested that what American education could really use was a space race. Who would we be racing against? China and India, for starters, but in a way, it doesn't matter. As I pointed out in that last post,

Obviously, our competitors now are a number of Asian and Eastern European nations (among others), but we are competing for much more than access to space or even to win the Cold War. This doesn’t need to be about getting to the moon before China; rather, it needs to be about inspiring students and creating the utter sense of urgency we need in education to push our students and improve what we do. It should be about inspiring students and teachers to embrace math, science, and engineering education. If it takes many billions more devoted to both NASA and education, then that’s a small price to pay to bring a new generation of brilliant scientists and mathematicians to the forefront of education, research, and industry.

Now we see that Obama has cut the Constellation program entirely in his proposed budget, and with it, the possibility of much in the way of space exploration. Not that Constellation isn't wildly over budget and too far behind to serve its purpose as a shuttle replacement craft, but there is something about space exploration that could be tied to a national STEM curriculum that just seems so inspiring.

According to the Orlando Sentinel

When the White House releases his budget proposal Monday, there will be no money for the Constellation program that was supposed to return humans to the moon by 2020. The troubled and expensive Ares I rocket that was to replace the space shuttle to ferry humans to space will be gone, along with money for its bigger brother, the Ares V cargo rocket that was to launch the fuel and supplies needed to take humans back to the moon.

I absolutely understand why budgets have been re-prioritized and I applaud efforts to address climate issues and explore public-private partnerships for "capsules and rockets that can be used as space taxis to take astronauts on fixed-price contracts to and from the International Space Station." However, this seems like a lost opportunity to engage the next generation of scientists in ways that the first space race did quite admirably.

Talk back below...what should be this generation's space race?