Obama and Mars
Tonight NASA proved that it is still capable of doing great things when it landed the rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars. It was wonderful watching the scientists/engineers erupt with joy when Curiosity phoned home and confirmed that the landing had been a success. Many years have gone into this project and the world now eagerly awaits the findings that Curiosity will report back to us here on earth. Due to my modest age I can only imagine the pride that followed the moon-landing and I envy those who were able to experience it.
President Obama also seemed to realize that NASA has performed quite a feat and issued a statement. Here it is in its entirety:
Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history.
The successful landing of Curiosity – the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet – marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future. It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination.
Tonight’s success, delivered by NASA, parallels our major steps forward towards a vision for a new partnership with American companies to send American astronauts into space on American spacecraft. That partnership will save taxpayer dollars while allowing NASA to do what it has always done best – push the very boundaries of human knowledge. And tonight’s success reminds us that our preeminence – not just in space, but here on Earth – depends on continuing to invest wisely in the innovation, technology, and basic research that has always made our economy the envy of the world.
I congratulate and thank all the men and women of NASA who made this remarkable accomplishment a reality – and I eagerly await what Curiosity has yet to discover.
If only President Obama actually meant what the statement implies. When you look beyond the hope and change-rhetoric, President Obama and his progressive entourage has not seemed to be especially interested in guiding NASA to a new era where it continues to take huge steps on behalf of mankind. Behind the rhetoric, Obama’s budget proposals reveal what this administration really thinks about NASA and space science:
In its budget submitted to Congress on February 13, the Obama administration zeroed out funding for NASA’s future Mars-exploration missions. The Mars Science Lab Curiosity, currently en route to the Red Planet and the nearly completed small MAVEN orbiter, scheduled for launch in 2013, will be sent, but that’s it. No funding has been provided for the Mars probes planned as joint missions in 2016 and 2018 with the European Space Agency, and nothing after that is funded either.
Alright. So then the administration must have been able to save money? Not quite. From the same article:
Indeed, what is truly remarkable about the Obama administration’s NASA management is that it has managed to wreck both the human-spaceflight program and the robotic planetary-exploration effort without saving any money. In 2008, NASA spending was $17.4 billion; this year’s budget is $17.7 billion. Yet in 2008, NASA was running an active space-shuttle program, preparing for the critical mission to save the Hubble Space Telescope, developing systems for returning astronauts to the moon by 2019, building the Curiosity and MAVEN Mars probes, and planning an orbiter for Jupiter’s moon Europa. Today the shuttles are gone, the moon program is gone, and this decade’s Mars and Jupiter probes are gone — all without saving a nickel. In terms of damage done per dollar cut, it may be a world record.
Instead, the administration is more interested in using NASA to pursue its own political agenda. For example, Heritage reported that President Obama wanted NASA to focus on monitoring climate change, and who can forget when Charles Bolden said that his foremost mission, as instructed by President Obama, as head of NASA is to reach out to the Muslim world in order to make them feel good about their contribution to science, math, and engineering. A mission rather far removed from President Kennedy’s promise of putting a man on the moon.
I’ll take Newt Gingrich and his promises of a base on Mars any day over this administration’s space/NASA policy.
Thomas can be found on Twitter as @ThomasRatPol
(Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)