Mr. S.D., a regular reader here, shared this article from the UK's Guardian, concerning a recent NASA report with its recommendations, and with the secret space program conference looming, it's worth our attention:
Notably the report was composed by a committee co-chaired by former Republican governor of Indian, Mitch Daniels, who has also served as the President of one of Indiana's, and the USA's, premier engineering academic institutions, Perdue University in Lafayette. In this respect, the report appears to be a fleshing out of the scheme first proposed during the administration of President G.H.W. Bush for a manned mission to Mars (which, on his timetable, was supposed to happen this year).
Even more interestingly, NASA, according to the Guardian, "said it supports the panel's findings." Just exactly what this means in the realm of the public(and hidden) politics that have swirled around the agency is anybody's guess, for "supporting the panel's findings" could easily be taken in the sense of including them in its current "flexible approach," or it could represent a real "change of goal and direction."
The two courses to Mars are also well-known and have been voiced before: one, via a stepping stone process involving the international space station, the satellites of Mars - Phobos and Deimos - and then on to the Red Planet's surface, the other, via a permanent base on the Moon. As most readers here are aware, there are plenty of good reasons to investigate Phobos more closely.
So what's the hold up? One factor is indicated by the article itself: China, which is pursuing its own independent, non-international, and ambitious space program. Thus, the real problem is exo-geopolitical, if we can be permitted to coin a term for what geopolitics, with all its associations to finance and military power, would look like in outer space. The real problem is, in other words, what are we to do with mineral rights, and also with "whatever else we might find out there," including potential artifacts. Integrating China into such a program would also conceivably have as one goal the integration of China into tacit agreement with the Brookings Report culture that has prevailed in NASA since it was first composed. That culture, as most readers here know, took the policy decision that if any evidence of artifacts were encountered, this would be suppressed and remain a closely held secret.
So my suspicion is, this report was made to do double duty: to give NASA a set of long-term strategic goals which, in the final analysis, are rather obvious to everyone and which have been argued since the inception of the agency: go to the Moon, establish eventually a permanent human presence there, then on to Mars. But the hidden agenda, at least for this author, remains buried more subtly between the lines of the Guardian's article: integrate China into the culture of silence about potential anomalies and artifacts in space.
See you on the flip side...