So why do I want to make a spaceship?  In part as a response to some recent events:

  1. Space Shuttle Program Ended.  The plan to phase out the space shuttle was set in place by President Bush after the Innational Space Station was completed, and was meant to be replaced by the Constellation Heavy Lift Rocket Program.  President Obama, however, canceled the Constellation program.  NASA is now working on a new rocket program, but it isn’t expected to be fully functioning until 2025.  Until then the government’s path forward is to utilize commercial space flight.  Besides being an oxymoron, this is troubling because while SpaceX exists, they have yet to send any thing let alone people to the ISS, and don’t plan to until 2016.  The last space shuttle landed in July, 2011, which means that we need to ask the Russians for a lift every time we want to send someone into space.  The shuttle has been referred to as a multipurpose work vehicle or a spaceship in search of a mission, as opposed to Apollo which was a mission (moon) in search of a spaceship.  I feel a close connection to the space shuttle since it flew its first live crew into orbit and back the year I was born.  Read more: Questions Hang Over NASA’s Post-Shuttle Future.
  2. NOAA Weather Satellite Budget Cut.  NOAA and NASA collectively launch and maintain a few weather satellites that orbit the planet.  A critical NOAA polar orbiting satellite has an estimated end of life sometime in 2016.  Congress just cut the NOAA budget, forcing them cancel the replacement satellite.  Another replacement will not be available budget wise until 2018.  This leaves a two year gap in which we will not have eyes in the sky, drastically reducing our ability to predict the paths of things like hurricanes, let alone know they are they before they hit land.  Read More: NOAA Warns Of Gap In Future Forecasting Abilities.
  3. Russian Soyuz Rockets Grounded.  As I understand it, there was a technical glitch in the last attempted launch of cargo on a Soyuz rocket on 29 August 2011.  Unfortunately, it exploded, and scientist are still unclear why.  Until the figure out what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again no one to use the Soyuz to send their astronauts to the International Space Station.  If the problem is not solved before November, all the remaining crew currently on the ISS will disembark, leaving the station unmanned.  They can do this because the ISS has “life boats,” which are actually remnants of the Soyuz docking module that remains attached to the station.  There is nothing emergency about this departure method as it is how the astronauts usually get off the station when they were delivered by the Soyuz.  Read more: NASA: International Space Station May Have To Go Unmanned.

To summarize, I am greatly concerned that the International Space Station may have to no people on board for an undetermined period of time due to the failure of Russian rockets and the cancelation of the US Space Shuttle program.  I very much want to go to space, and view this potential unoccupied period of the ISS as my window of opportunity.  Why not send me?

Image from NASA.