The post title refers to the fact that the Washington Post story I am linking to on Friday, May 22, 2009 states it was first published Saturday, May 23, 2009. But that’s an aside really from the real intention of the post, or the story in the Post, to play on words a bit. Regular readers know I am a bit of a space buff, so the WaPo story hits home.
NASA’s triumphant mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope this week has cracked open a policy rift within the space agency, with a top NASA scientist saying that the United States is on the way to losing the capability to do what it has just done so dramatically.
David Leckrone, the senior project scientist for the Hubble, said NASA’s new strategy for the post-space-shuttle era does not include servicing scientific instruments in space, and he fears that vast amounts of accumulated knowledge and technical expertise will quickly vanish.
“It just makes me want to cry to think that this is the end of it,” Leckrone said at a news conference earlier this week. “There is no person out there, there is no leadership out there, there is no vision out there to pick up the baton that we’re about to hand off and carry it forward.”
His words, streamed around the planet via the NASA Web site, ruffled the agency and incited rebuttals from headquarters. But Leckrone, who plans to retire in October, is not backing down, and yesterday he reiterated his case.
“I feel like NASA’s doing what it’s done before — it comes up with a great capability and, for political or budgetary reasons or whatever, it abandons it,” Leckrone told The Post. He added: “I’ve been besieged by NASA people thanking me for saying what they think needed to be said.”
We went to the moon in my lifetime. Then we went back into low earth orbit. But we sent men to the moon in a capsule. The shuttle is a spacecraft. The real deal.
We are going back to the capsule approach. No more robotic arms. No more dragging a satellite into the cargo bay to be repaired. No more spacewalks for part of the crew while the rest sit (or float) comfortably inside.
I suspect that Leckrone is afraid of the same thing I am right now. Every, single American sent into space by our government has done so within my lifetime. I’m more than a little worried that the last one may also happen in my lifetime.