Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Silicon Valley of Space

John McCarthy of Florida Today has this excellent lengthy article on how to fulfill President Obama's proposal to turn Brevard County into the “Silicon Valley of Space.”

My concern is that local leadership has totally failed to diversify the local economy in the more than six years since President Bush cancelled the Space Shuttle in January 2004. To this day, local elected officials still demand we continue with an unsustainable status quo. They're oblivious to the reality that NASA has spent the last six years shutting down the Shuttle program. Many of the second- and third-tier contractors have gone out of business or moved on to other things. It might be two years before another external tank can be manufactured. Meanwhile, Shuttle workers would sit around collecting paychecks but launching nothing.

The Constellation program was assumed to absorb some of the job losses, but as was documented by the Augustine Panel report Constellation wasn't going to launch Ares I until at least 2018, two years after the International Space Station was scheduled to be decommissioned and splashed into an ocean because ISS money would be transferred to fund Constellation. There would be no need for Ares I if there's no ISS to fly to. Augustine also found that the Ares V moon program wouldn't be ready to fly until 2028, if ever.

But local elected officials and union officials don't care about that. They want to keep the federal government in the role of the coal company that will one day abandon the West Virginia mining town.

The Silicon Valley of Space can only happen if Suzanne Kosmas, Bill Posey, Robin Fisher and the others fighting Obama stop pandering and start working to diversify our local economy. If they don't change their attitude, the Space Coast may become another New River Gorge, a string of mining towns abandoned to the forces of Nature once the coal ran out.

John Kelly of Florida Today said pretty much the same thing in this April 18 opinion column:

Whether you support or oppose President Barack Obama's space plan, if you're a local leader, it's time to shift your attention from protesting the inevitable retirement of the space shuttles and start looking to the future.

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