NASA's Feel Good Mission

July 7, 2010

NASA administrator Charles Bolden says that his “foremost” mission is to improve relations with the Muslim world. This head-scratching statement is made more bizarre by Bolden’s claim that he received this instruction from the president himself.


When I became the NASA administrator – or before I became the NASA administrator – he charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science…and math and engineering,’ Bolden said in the interview.  
Are we spending $18 billion a year of taxpayer money on the space agency simply to generate warm and fuzzy feelings?  
Well, that’s Obama’s view apparently. But in Congress, the purpose of blowing taxpayer money on NASA is to protect government jobs in their districts. Members are fighting the Obama administration’s attempt to cancel NASA’s Constellation program. An independent panel called the over-budget, behind-schedule program “the least attractive approach to space exploration as compared to potential alternatives.”
Many of these policymakers have been critical of the president’s attempt to create jobs by spending loads of taxpayer money. But according to Constellation supporter Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), “There are a lot of government programs that need to be cut…But when it comes to our defense and our space industry, I see them in a different category.” In other words, Aderholt is more concerned with buying special interest support than national need.
The president wants to use NASA as a diplomacy tool. Congress wants to use it to secure government jobs in their district on the taxpayer dime. In this era of massive debt, politics masquerading as science is a luxury we can’t afford. Private entrepreneurs should assume the responsibility for space travel and exploration, which policymakers could assist by reducing regulatory and tax burdens. 


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