India announced Sunday that it is building a fully-reusable space shuttle, while the U.S. space program hasn’t been able to put an astronaut into orbit without help from the Russians since 2011.
A scaled down test of the shuttle concept is expected to take place later this year and reach an altitude of more than 43 miles on its test flight. The test version will be 6.5 meters long and will weigh a mere 1.75 tons. The final version of the shuttle is intended to be operating in ten years.
Reusable space technology is considered a major advance because it has the potential to significantly lower the costs of getting into orbit. Most of the cost lies not in the fuel, but rather the rocket components. India’s scientists estimate that the final version could make launching satellites 10 times cheaper than it is today. America’s Space Shuttle was only technically reusable because its giant fuel tank was discarded after each launch, and its side boosters were parachuted into corrosive salt water every flight, which required them to be extensively refurbished after use, making the Space Shuttle exceedingly expensive.
If India’s test of the scaled down concept succeeds, it will be the third country in history after America and the Soviet Union to operate a reusable shuttle. The only a small group of private companies such as Scale Composites, Blue Origin and SpaceX have successfully operate a reusable spacecraft.
“India’s Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstration Program is an important reminder that the United States must continue to invest in and develop cutting edge space transportation and exploration technologies,” Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House science committee, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Between 1981 and 2011, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) operated five American space shuttles, performing 35 missions. The U.S. ended the shuttle program in 2011, planning to replace it with a new fleet of Space Launch System (SLS) rockets ridden by Orion capsules with the ultimate goal of returning to the Moon and then taking astronauts to Mars.
The Obama administration stymied both SLS and Orion and has repeatedly attempted to divert their budgets into programs that would study global warming. President Barack Obama outright threatening to veto both programs and his administration has also been accused of leaking information to the press about the Mars programs.
As a result, NASA’s 2017 budget of $19 billion will spend more than $2 billion to study global warming in the Earth Science Mission Directorate. The money is specifically allocated to study global warming by improving climate modeling, weather prediction and natural hazard mitigation. In comparison, NASA’s other functions, such as astrophysics and space technology, are only getting a mere $781.5 and $826.7 million, respectively.
Many of the climate models created by the Directorate have been proven inaccurate when checked against actual temperature observations. Despite these issues, Obama has ensured that spending on the Directorate has increased by 63 percent over the last eight years, making it the largest and fastest growing budget of any NASA science program. Obama has repeatedly attempted to cut other NASA directorates, such as Planetary Sciences and Exploration, so that money could be redirected to Earth Science. Over the same time period, the general NASA budget grew only by 10.6 percent — just enough to account for inflation.
Even global-warming alarmist Bill Nye the “Science Guy,” who’s also the CEO of the Planetary Society, has criticized Obama’s attempts to cut NASA’s space exploration and planetary science programs in favor of global warming, and pointed out that NASA’s planetary science program have been forced to hold car washes and bake sales to gain political support to maintain funding.
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