If you’re not watching the space jump live, you should be. It’ll take three hours to get to 120k feet, but once he’s there it’s going to be amazing to watch him fall back down to the ground. I’m hoping they’re filiming it in IMAX so we can watch it on the big screen. I also hope Felix brought extra batteries for his gameboy.
The elephant in the room is that Obama grounded all the manned space flights by cutting funding to the Constellation program. This was met with the whole “US Space Program: Brought to You by RedBull” meme which is fairly tragic. On the one hand I think it speaks volumes for the success of private programs over publicly funded programs. I even think it might pave the way for payloads being delivered to space on balloon. If they can make it to 10% the height of the ISS, why not knock 10% off the fuel tab by sending rockets up on balloons until they lose their ability to lift? If we get really crazy with the cheez wiz we could do it with hot air and not lose the balloon or fuel. Although burning liquid oxygen isn’t exactly a waste.
But there’s a point here – this is old NASA stuff, this is awesome H G Wells science fiction stuff. As a public program the entire thing stagnated. How much of the Felix and RedBull craft looks like old NASA stuff? Zero. It speaks volumes I think towards the stagnation of NASA. I don’t particularly think the funding should have been cut – NASA did bring us vapor layment processor construction and other really cool technologies. On the other hand I do think it needed a serious injection of brainpower, and if the private sector is doing the injection, then so be it. But that also means the government can go a the way it does now with aircraft and defense – it purchases resources from private companies to perform tax funded work.
A slightly more troubling question at this point is “What work does NASA do?” NASA had asked Obama to fund another mission to the moon (frankly I’m surprised they didn’t get it with how Obama treats money) and Obama said no and cut the funding for manned space flight. If NASA isn’t going to the moon, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper for companies to contract out to private firms and have them ferry their experiments and similar crap to space. Also unfortunately, now that we know what space is like because we’ve documented it so thoroughly, we can make things in the comfort of our own atmosphere without having to go to space. The whole vapor deposit technology can be done on the planet now that we’ve dumped the cash into building the stuff. High levels of radiation? Just hang out at a nuclear plant. Weightlessness to study perfect fields? We do it with magnets now.
Is there anything left for NASA to actually do in space?