In the aftermath of President Obama’s decision to dramatically curtail NASA’s manned space program, many observers wondered what the future of America’s participation in the exploration of the heavens would look like. The successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 on June 4 may give us a first look at that future.
As NASA’s manned space efforts falter in the face of the looming conclusion of the shuttle program and by a finding of the Augustine Committee that projects that government-funded space exploration will be significantly more expensive in coming years, private space ventures are soaring.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has developed the fastest proton accelerator in the history of science — the Hadron Collider, which accelerated its twin beams of protons to an energy of 1.18 TeV on November 30, breaking the previous world record of 0.98 TeV, which had been held by the U.S. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory's Tevatron collider since 2001. The collider used by CERN enables scientists to probe a little closer to the first moments of the universe which should help scientists answer questions which have now remained unanswerable. Although the new collider will help physicists learn more than they know now, experimentally, the fundamental theoretical problems of physics remain as elusive as ever.
Six weeks after the release of the committee’s preliminary report, the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee has released its final report. The 155 page report, which is entitled “Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation,” is the end result of a process which began last May, when the Obama administration announced that the committee, chaired by Norman Augustine (former CEO of Lockheed Martin), would study the state of America’s manned space program and render advice to the administration concerning the future of that program.