Orion is facing an uncertain future after a massive success, which was the final test-launch of the craft on Friday. While many wanted to believe that this was the final step in revitalizing our space program here in the United States – it remains an uncertain issue since many of the factors that people contribute to space program success are absent.
Many have gone as far as to compare the time period that we’re experiencing now to the period that existed in the 60s when NASA and the rest of the world, were aiming for the Moon.
Now, there is no competition for reaching any destination in space – even though Mars has been a largely talked about goal. No single entity has made the outright claim that they would be the first to the Red Planet, and created the nearly-hostile environment that was reaching the Moon nearly 50 years ago.
Orion’s successful launch and movement meant that the United States’ newest rocket – that could host a manned mission – was officially operational and out of the everlasting testing phase. Orion was a project that began during the Bush administration and was something that was largely forgotten about in the latter half of the last decade with a global economy that was struggling, and many Americans thinking about things more immediate than space travel.
Furthermore, as President Obama comes closer to the end of his turn as President of the United States, it would become more challenging for him to garner the support needed to increase funding in the area of space travel – especially during a term where his opponents have harshly fought against everything he has done.
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The bottom line is that there is no concrete plans for Orion, or the mission that would be subsequently happening. While there is a lot of optimism that is largely due to the fact that this launch went well and didn’t end in disaster. The goal of this final test was specifically to test the heat shield on the rocket to ensure that it would actually make it through launch in the first place.
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Now it would seem the rest will depend on what the American people, and the American policy would like to do with the project heading into the next few years when a project of going to the moon, or collecting an asteroid from space – which have both been talked about – could become reality.
A new risk that the space program is having to negotiate is the fact that Cape Canaveral Air Base – where the manned launches take place – is losing real estate to climate change. The climate change is actually eliminating the barrier between the launch pads 39a and 39b, and the Atlantic Ocean is overtaking the beach. Nearly 100 feet of beach have been lost since 2003, and now scientists aren’t sure how much longer the area we remain usable. In order to protect them, NASA is planning to spend $2.8 million, for three mile-long dunes.