Thursday, July 7, 2011

America's Space Supremacy

The Space Coast's congressional representatives Sandy Adams and Bill Posey are known for falsely claiming the President Barack Obama has ceded U.S. human space flight "leadership" to other nations. Their pet bogeyman is China.

Florida Today columnist Matt Reed published an implicit rebuke of those claims in an article titled, "Post-Shuttle Prognosis — Space Supremacy and Plenty of Launches."

Politicians will complain about astronauts riding with Russians to the space station for a couple years. On Mars, meanwhile:

• NASA's probe will open a parachute to slow its descent. Then, the parachute will drop away, and the landing module, known as a "sky crane" will fire its engines, stop its fall and hover. From there, the sky crane will lower Curiosity by tethers to the ground, wheels down.

This will happen at an ancient river delta or the base of a mountain — spots our scientists have deemed least boring. Curiosity, with the wheelbase of a Humvee, might climb the mountain part way, said John Grotzinger, project scientist at the California Institute of Technology.

• Curiosity's robot arm has a drill that will probe rocks then reach back and drop residue into its "chemical laboratory." Besides awesome high-definition photos, we'll learn exactly what Mars is made of.

You call that a space program adrift? I call it space supremacy.

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