5 December 2003
Online - Habitat (Good)
Fly Me (Halfway) to the Moon
Let me build among the stars
by Carol Pinchefsky
by Carol Pinchefsky

Buzz Aldrin, former astronaut, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times (registration required), in which he suggested a more practical alternative to President Bush's plan for a lunar return:

"Setting up a space port...in the region of space called L1, which is more than two-thirds of the way to the moon and is where the gravity fields between the Earth and the Moon are in balance...would offer a highly stable platform from which spacecraft could head toward near-Earth asteroids, the lunar surface, the moons of Mars and wherever else mankind decides to travel."

Unlike the International Space Station ( ISS), for which expenditures now exceed US$30 billion--and Aldrin believes will reach a cringe-worthy $100 billion--this space base would cost a mere $15 billion. He also wisely states that a new breed of vehicle, one designed for transportation of crew and payload, would replace the Space Shuttle; tax dollars earmarked for the Space Shuttle would therefore be diverted.

But given NASAs track record with the over-budgeted, under-utilised ISS, one may reach for hope and find nothing but a handful of skepticism concerning government plans for the future of space. However, on 3 December 2003, the White House published a press release concerning the US$3.7 billion they alloted for nanotechnology.

It states, "Nanotechnology is expected to have a broad and fundamental impact on many sectors of the economy, leading to new products, new businesses, new jobs, and even new industries."

Building an infrastructure for space would have the same impact and lead to those same new jobs and industries. In fact, one could argue that it is a government's job to lead the development of industries that are commercially too risky for scientific and commercial use.

The U.S. government has held the keys to the kingdom for years, but the kingdom has remained closed to all but a few. Aldrin is attempting to broaden the United State's role in space. For this, he must be commended.
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Carol Pinchefsky 5 December 2003
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