Pierre Trudeau, addressing the Washington, D.C., Press Club in 1969 said “Living next to you [the U.S.] is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt” and he was absolutely correct. In 1969.
That’s why this week in space for Canada is all about watching the Americans figure out what they’re going to do with their broken, bleeding and bankrupt national space program.
The obvious writing has been on the walls and in the space focused blogs for months (maybe years by this point) but here’s a quick listing of some recent articles on the US space program and NASA:
1) Todd Halvorson and Bart Jansen write in the January 28, 2010 issue of Florida Today that “Despite expected budget infusion, thousands at KSC (The Kennedy Space Center)” are expected to loose their jobs over the next little while.
2) Science blog The Right Stuff (part of the Orlando Sentinel‘s online presence) goes boldly forward summarizing Administration officials and former astronaut Sally Ride (who was also part of the Augustine Committee) in the article “Obama officials: Ares dead and $6bn destined for commercial rockets.”
3) NASA Watch (a part of the larger spaceref.com international network which includes spaceref.ca and this column) has collected a series of articles under the headline “Is Constellation Dead?” including “Anxiety rises over NASA budget” originally published in the Huntsville Times, “No space for Constellation? Former NASA Administrator speaks out” from WAFF News and “Going In Circles Again: America Will Abandon Human Lunar Exploration – And Much More.”
4) Parabolic Arc writer Doug Messier writes about comments new NASA administrator Charles Bolden made in Israel earlier this week under the headline “Bolden: NASA to Foster Entrepreneurial Space, Human Mars Missions Irresponsible” but cautions that the NASA budget faces opposition in Congress even though there is no projected budgetary increase in the article “Obama Plan to Face Opposition in Congress.”
What does all this mean for Canada?
With all appropriate apologies to Shakespeare, there is the possibility that this drama playing out at NASA is simply the end of a tale told by an idiot (or idiots) full of sound and fury but signifying nothing at least for the CSA and Canadian space focused businesses.
But Trudeau said that the US was an enormous elephant, affecting us with every twitch and grunt. How could this drama signify nothing?
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) continues its traditional close relationship with NASA while outsourcing Canadian launches to non-US suppliers (a continuation of a pattern discussed in my article “A Listing of Canadian Satellite Launches.”).
And, as discussed in my article “Canadian Component Builders “Moving Up the Food Chain” to Build Complete Satellites” Canadian space focused companies also continue to offer their services to not just Americans, but also to Indians and Europeans and others.
After all, these days no one in the industry acts as if NASA and the US space program are the only game in town and this is mostly because they’re not. Everywhere outside of the US, space focused companies and organizations continue to grow at double digit rates and are starting to surpass the US in a variety of interesting and useful ways.
This gives us quite a different situation from 1969 when the US was in the midst of competing against the USSR for space supremacy and just starting to land men on the Moon.
In essence, NASA is no longer the only show in town and while the CSA, Canadian space focused businesses and international organizations are already acting as if they are aware of this paradigm shift, those in the space advocacy community might just be missing the obvious truth.
So I’ll say it again. NASA is no longer the only game in town. Welcome to the future.
That’s all for this week in space for Canada.