Fanning the flames of the near future

Fanning the flames of the near future

Fanning the flames of the near future

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Oct. 10 2010 7:00 AM

Fanning the flames of the near future

Sometimes, it's easy to read our own feelings into a simple picture.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

soyuz_oct82010

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That's the flame from a Soyuz TMA-01M rocket which launched on Friday with a crew of three men headed to the International Space Station. As a picture, it's very engaging; I love imagery which possesses a geometric symmetry but is still off-center and a bit unbalanced.

As a metaphor, it's also engaging: once the Shuttle retires, we'll have to rely on the Russians for a few years to get supplies and crew to and from the ISS; the image of the flames but not the rocket give a definite "Elvis has left the building" vibe.

But we'll see. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon capsule is scheduled for a test flight as early as next month, and the new NASA authorization bill provides a tidy sum of money for commercial flights (don't believe the rhetoric some in Congress are using about Obama killing manned spaceflight; it's baloney). And there's also funding for a new rocket system as well. It will take NASA several years to get their own big human-rated rockets flying again, but it will happen. I'm angry and frustrated about the current situation, and I'll be a lot happier when it's resolved. But I'm also hopeful that the path is being laid out for not only a return to space, but one that is sustainable and permanent.