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Budget cuts scrap NASA’s future space discovery plans

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By Julia Sayers

Discovery, the last shuttle for exploration, was launched Feb. 24. Photo courtesy of NASA.

The last American astronauts on NASA’s shuttle Discovery were launched into space on Feb. 24. President Barack Obama’s 2011 budget plan has put a halt to NASA’s recent plans to send astronauts back to the moon. The cutbacks will end the 30-year shuttle program. Discovery will return to the earth on Wednesday and will be put on display in the Smithsonian.

In the budget, Obama allotted $19 billion for NASA, which will include $6 billion to fund the shift toward supporting commercially built vehicles to launch astronauts into space.

“This new path is a big change. I realize that,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “But it is not a change from the guiding principles of NASA. It makes America stronger. It enables us to draw more strongly on the ingenuity of the commercial sector.”

The budget cuts have caused many different opinions. Elon University Professor Gerald Gibson is sad to see the program go.

“In some ways I’m really sad to see the shuttle program stop,” Gibson said. “I grew up with those TV shows about space exploration. To see it stop means to see that set of dreams comes to end.”

Gibson feels that space exploration is closer to the hearts of the older generation than of the younger generations.

“Space exploration has always been a part of your life,” Gibson said. “But for us, it was a big deal. It was always in the news.”

He says that human’s have an innate hard-wired desire to explore and find out what’s over the horizon or what’s beyond the solar system. He hopes that people will still be able to explore space.

The question now is what comes behind the budget cuts? Will it be robot driven?” Gibson said.  “But you always hope for people in space.”

Catherine Ayers, an Elon University freshman, agrees that people should be sent into space instead of technology.

“You can’t always depend on technology,” Ayers said. “And if people aren’t going, they’re not getting experience. Technology can’t ‘learn’ anything for us. People have to do that.”

Junior Jay Light also believes human space exploration is worthwhile.

“I hope they reinstate man exploration,” Light said.

Not all people are against the budget cuts though. People relied on Obama’s judgment in cutting back on the program.

“We have issues. We have big issues. We have debt and things need to be cut back,” said Elon freshman Curt Lestan. “If you have to cut back somewhere, and Obama feels that’s the area to do it, I don’t think that’s a terrible place at this point.”

Brenda Turner, employee at Acorn coffee shop, also trusts in the budget cuts and the use of technology if that is what is best.

“If there’s no more need for exploration then I can see money being put towards what we need,” Turner said. “If satellites can do what we need, great.”

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Written by juliasayers

March 7, 2011 at 10:44 am

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