The Sciences

Fanning the flames of the near future

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitOct 10, 2010 11:00 AM

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Sometimes, it's easy to read our own feelings into a simple picture.

That's the flame from a Soyuz TMA-01M rocket which launched on Friday with a crew of three men headed to the International Space Station. As a picture, it's very engaging; I love imagery which possesses a geometric symmetry but is still off-center and a bit unbalanced. As a metaphor, it's also engaging: once the Shuttle retires, we'll have to rely on the Russians for a few years to get supplies and crew to and from the ISS; the image of the flames but not the rocket give a definite "Elvis has left the building" vibe. But we'll see. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon capsule is scheduled for a test flight as early as next month, and the new NASA authorization bill provides a tidy sum of money for commercial flights (don't believe the rhetoric some in Congress are using about Obama killing manned spaceflight; it's baloney). And there's also funding for a new rocket system as well. It will take NASA several years to get their own big human-rated rockets flying again, but it will happen. I'm angry and frustrated about the current situation, and I'll be a lot happier when it's resolved. But I'm also hopeful that the path is being laid out for not only a return to space, but one that is sustainable and permanent.

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