Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

It Is Rocket Science

By Simon Grose

Obama boosts space exploration beyond the Moon to Mars.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

A few months after Barack Obama became America’s 44th President, a US commentator noted that it was a welcome change to “have a grown-up in charge”.

Change is what Obama promised. The hard-won reform of America’s health care system that crunched through Congress a year after he took office is the headline example so far.

Reforming America’s space exploration program did not arouse the fierce ideological conflict that engulfed the health debate. Nevertheless, reforms Obama announced in mid-April at the Kennedy Space Centre involve a fundamental shift in emphasis that angered many, not least Neil Armstrong, the first moonwalker.

George W. Bush’s goal of putting American people back on the Moon by 2020 is off the agenda. Obama is looking longer into the future and further into the solar system. While he said that “nobody is more committed to manned space flight, to human exploration of space than I am," he added that "we've got to do it in a smart way".

This is a ultimately a call for scientific and technological innovation. While nowhere near as populist as having people bouncing around the Moon with the Stars and Stripes on their helmets, it is informed by measured judgement and augurs well for the holders of niche space expertise like Australia.

By 2015 Obama charged NASA with developing a new heavy-lift rocket and a new generation space...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Simon Grose is a Director of Science Media (