When I mentioned in an earlier post that the discovery of lunar water wasn’t a reason itself for human exploration of the Moon but improved the prospects if advocates could establish a “compelling case” for doing so, it raised a debate in the comments on what would constitute such a rationale. For a government-funded (or at least a government-led), what would convince the White House and Congress to invest more in NASA’s human spaceflight program, given that the Augustine committee concluded that current funding was insufficient for human missions beyond LEO on anything like the current timescales?
I asked that question in an essay in Monday’s issue of The Space Review and found the current arguments lacking. National security, technological innovation, spinoffs, and education, among others, don’t seem strong enough separately or even in aggregate to support the billions of dollars a year of additional funding the Augustine committee claimed it needed. That compelling case—if it does exist—is still out there waiting to be found.
I noticed earlier this week the unveiling of GoBoldlyNASA.org, a web site that intends to explain “how space exploration is important to you, the nation, and our future”. (While not explicitly stated there, the site is apparently a project of the Young Professionals branch of the Citizens for Space Exploration.) The site, though, just rehashes many of the old arguments, the ones that have not proven compelling in the past. The site includes a letter you can sign to send to your representatives, but the call to action is weak: “I urge you to provide adequate investment in our nation’s space program.” What may be one person’s “adequate investment” may be another’s wholly inadequate—or simply unaffordable.