India successfully launched an experimental unmanned and reusable space shuttle Monday, while America hasn’t put an astronaut into orbit without help from Russia since 2011.
The 23-foot-long shuttle was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in eastern India and reached an altitude of 43 miles before landing on its target spot 280 miles away in the Bay of Bengal 10 minutes later. India’s space agency states it hopes to reuse the experimental shuttle soon for another flight.
India is the third country in history, after America and the Soviet Union, to operate a reusable shuttle. Only a small group of private companies, such as Scaled Composites, Blue Origin and SpaceX, have successfully operated a reusable spacecraft. India expects to launch a full-sized reusable space shuttle in the next decade.
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 in the rocket components. India’s scientists estimate that the final version could make launching satellites 10 times cheaper than today’s costs. The experimental shuttle cost India around $14 million, making it significantly cheaper than the $1.5 billion average for American shuttle launches.
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, which required them to be extensively refurbished after use, making the Space Shuttle exceedingly expensive.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) operated five American space shuttles between 1981 and 2011, 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.
“I remain very concerned that the robust support SLS and Orion receives, both in Congress and within NASA, is not matched by the Obama officials at the White House,” Republican Rep. Brian Babin, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Space Subcommittee, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Their continued lack of interest and support for a robust program undermines morale within the agency and has forced Congress to battle the White House each and every year to keep these programs on track.”
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 threatened 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 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. Nye pointed out that NASA’s planetary science programs have been forced to hold car washes and bake sales to gain political support to maintain funding.
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