BY SEN. WILL ESPERO – Possible presidential candidate Governor Rick Perry recently criticized President Obama for ending the space shuttle program. One can argue that ending the aging space shuttle program is in line with what Tea Party members and some Republicans have been calling for, a reduction in federal spending. Asking the private sector to be more involved in future space exploration seems like an idea Tea Party members and Republicans would approve.
My point here is that Governor Perry’s criticism of President Obama is a weak attempt to garner attention and sound like a presidential candidate. Perry’s attempt to use the space shuttle’s final trip as a backdrop doesn’t make sense when the country is talking about both cutting spending and raising revenues. If Governor Perry continues similar attacks on the president, he will just be another candidate trying to take away the spotlight from his GOP opponents.
In Hawaii, two areas where the private sector can become actively involved with space exploration and aerospace development are space tourism and the International Lunar Research Park. Space tourism is a niche market which will be driven by private industry. The race is on to become the first commercial enterprise to take tourists into orbit.
The concept of the International Lunar Research Park on the Big Island would be a collaboration of private companies, foreign countries, and NASA as well. The vision to create a Silicon Valley-like atmosphere centered around lunar research has great potential. NASA Ames has already signed an agreement with the state of Hawaii to move forward on this concept.
The end of the space shuttle program will be the beginning of new space and aviation endeavors and ideas. The next generation of space exploration will be just as exciting as Apollo and the Space Shuttle. A new model of collaboration, effort, and will can take us to Mars and beyond.