How Will NASA Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before With Slashed Funding?
Photo from NASA Europa aka the place NASA won't be going any time soon.
Once traveling at light speed was the kind of thing you'd only hear about right before or after William Shatner said, "Beam me up, Scotty," but physicist Harold White and a NASA team at the Johnson Space Center are working on making the warp drive a thing that will actually exist.
In a similar kind of fairy tale situation, we used to be a nation enthralled with the concept of space travel. Yes, that was mostly because the Soviets scared the hell out of everybody as Tom Wolfe vividly pointed out in The Right Stuff, but there was also a drive for discovery, a fascination that pushed us to see one of our own leave the atmosphere, circle the globe and land on the moon.
But that was all a long time ago. Now, even though NASA is working on incredible projects - in addition to the warp drive they want to lasso an asteroid and bring it to the moon's orbit so astronauts can land on it and study it - they've seen their budget brutally cut due to the sequestration and the Great Recession before that. Boldly going where no one has gone before is kind of tricky if you don't have scientists trying to figure out where we're going and how to get there.
The proposed 2014 budget proposes giving NASA $17.7 billion, which of course isn't exactly chump change, but it's still $50 million less than NASA's last budget in 2012. Yes, this proposed budget actually gives NASA about $1 billion back from the sequestration, but it still doesn't signal good things.
The money for the whole asteroid thing - which sounds cool but honestly also worries Hair Balls just the tiniest bit since we've seen both Deep Impact and Armageddon - is built into the budget, but critics say the funding for a lot of other projects is being left off the list.