The soon-to-be commander of the International Space Station sent this picture today of the supply ship launched from Kazakhstan yesterday, heading for the ISS. In the foreground is the Soyuz capsule that will take the returning astronauts back to the planet at some point.
Usually, it takes two days for robot ships to reach the ISS, but this one did it in six hours.
From aboard the ISS, astronaut Oleg Novitsky guided the ship in.
Question to ponder: Who won the "space race"?
Earlier this month, a NASA official insisted space is still a "top priority" for the United States.
"If you total up every other space agency on the planet today -- Russia, China, Japan, all of Europe, Canada, South America -- they equal three-quarters of NASA's budget," Lori Garver, the agency's deputy administrator said. "So don't believe that America has turned its back on our civil space program."
The U.S. is turning much of its orbital business to private groups while it works on technology to land on an asteroid.
NASA is in a tailspin, and it's easy to see why - Congress is dragging it around.
SpaceX is the real company to watch. I wouldn't be surprised if it's a SpaceX capsule that sets down on Mars before anyone else - even if it's a NASA emblem that's painted on the outside.
I heard some great commentary on this a few months back on... get this... MPR. The claim is that the government shouldn't be in the same business as other businesses, but those that are valuable to the nation but too risky for normal companies to put their money into.
This makes sense--Space flight is easy and profitable at this point. Landing on a foreign object isn't yet... but potentially will be at some point and then the keys will be handed to private enterprise. An historical correlary was Columbus' voyage--to risky for him relative to the reward--but for the government of Spain, the reward outweighed the risk.
//"So don't believe that America has turned its back on our civil space program."
Let's talk about the part of NASA that is supposed to put people into space. It's all but defunct. Between Congressional antics and the indecision in the Executive Branch, I seriously doubt I will see another manned U.S./NASA launch from Cape Canaveral in my lifetime. SpaceX and other privates? You bet.
The work of JPL and the folks who oversee the unmanned programs do fantastic work.
Maybe that's why we have a problem - "If you total up every other space agency on the planet today -- Russia, China, Japan, all of Europe, Canada, South America -- they equal three-quarters of NASA's budget,"
Russia has over 6000 more days in space (19500) than US (13382) - all other countries don't even total 2000.
Measuring the success of a space program by the number of manned launches or the number of person-days in space is not the most accurate measure of success. It is more cost effective to send equipment rather than human bodies into space.
And speaking of Mars, NASA is the only organization that has successfully landed and operated a rover on the planet surface. There were failed attempts by the European Space Agency (2003) and Russia (2011). All 4 NASA rover missions to Mars have been successful.