After getting home today, I had an appeal from SpaceX in my inbox. The crew is encouraging their supporters to contact the Congress (in particular members of the House and Senate commerce committees) and ask that funding for the Dragon cargo module be included in the stimulus bill that’s currently going through a conference committee. The email makes a pretty good argument for why the some of the funding should go to Dragon development:
- Shuttle retirement in 2010 (that’s next year!)
- Relying on the Russian Soyuz to get access to the Space Station through 2016 (hope we don’t have beef before then)
- Reduced cost (compared to keeping the shuttle going or paying the Russians)
Here is another blurb from the email:
F9/Dragon would cost less than $20M per seat and it is 100% manufactured and launched in the United States. We are estimating that it would create well in excess of a 1000 high quality jobs at Cape Canaveral and an equivalent number in California and Texas, where we do our manufacturing and testing. Moreover, the total cost would only be $1.5B, so taxpayers would save nearly $2B.
There are always those that question the need to keep our space program alive. Here is a good example of how the business of spaceflight is contributing directly to the creation and maintenance of jobs in THIS country. The message also included a link to a pretty cool animation simulating a Dragon launch and landing.
On another note, Emily Lakdawalla over @ The Planetary Society (I’m sending in my renewal membership any day now :-) ), blogged about some great news coming out of ESA. Both the Venus Express and Mars Express probes have been given an extension on life.
When we launch out little robot buddies out in to the void and they begin returning amazing scientific results, it is with grand announcements and proclamations. But, they soon fade from the general public’s view and only us nerdy types keep up with them on a regular. Many of these explorers are outliving their original design lifetime and are continuing to return significant information. It’s good to see that the people with the money bags are still willing to let the good times roll.
And finally, for those of you who have the patience, our solar neighborhood is about to put on a little light show for you. Between now and March 1st, Comet Lulin will continue to become brighter and may even become visible to the naked eye. The best time to try and catch a glimpse of Lulin is between 10 PM and 1 AM. It will appear in the Virgo / Leo area of the sky, coming real close to Saturn on Feb. 24th. With the moon waning, things should get real interesting in the next few weeks. I’m going to have to break out the telescope and go hunting for the green comet as soon as the sky clears (not looking good until next week for North Alabama).
On another note, I’m going to have to get a new setup so that I can snap my own astrophotos. Anyone want to contribute to the cause?