The Emperor Has No Clothes

The Emperor Has No Clothes: The United States is “trending backwards” in its ability to place humans in space and must plot “a change of course” to reinvigorate this vitally important national mission or risk falling out of the human spaceflight business, warned retired Gen. Kevin Chilton, who was an astronaut on three space shuttle missions. “We will forget how to do this business” if the situation doesn’t improve, Chilton told attendees of the trends in manned spaceflight panel at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., on Sept 18. Chilton called for doubling NASA’s roughly $18 billion budget to buck the trend. “It is a national security issue for us to continue leadership in this field,” he said. Chilton said he has nothing against the NASA-funded efforts of commercial space launch providers to pursue human spaceflight; he hopes that these companies succeed. But those efforts are not enough, he said. He supports a stepping-stone approach: first go back to the Moon, and then venture beyond that. “Set milestones and not tens of thousands of milestones,” he said in justifying returning to the Moon before going to Mars.