Posts Tagged ‘Constellation’
June 14th, 2010 at 12:09 pm
The Hubris to Think Small

As a die-hard space enthusiast, I find it hard to believe that the Obama Administration can’t seem to come up with $3 billion a year to sustain America’s manned space program.  From the folks who continue to bring us trillion dollar deficits and hundreds of billions in new spending for feel-good policies like universal health insurance, combating climate change, and subsidized job creation, can it really be that the end of the budget line stops just short of funding NASA’s Constellation program?

Apparently so.  A commission created by President Obama concluded that NASA’s current strategy is too expensive, lacks innovation, and takes too long to achieve its goal of getting Americans back to the Moon, and then off to Mars by 2020.  The criticism reminds me of the adage about getting something fast, accurate, and cheap: you can have any two, but not all three.  Thus, it looks like Americans will get nothing now that Obama’s NASA chief is directing contractors to abort their work as the government prepares to terminate the program.

So, good riddance thousands of science and engineering jobs; hello make-work Recovery Act projects!

Though I’m sure the Obama White House doesn’t agree; killing the Constellation program is the latest example of an inner circle that can’t see the forest for the trees.  Afghanistan is the war that won’t (can’t?) end; no one seems to know how to “plug the damn hole” in the Gulf; and there is growing unease about the direction of the country from the Left and the Right.  Wouldn’t a presidential challenge to put an American on Mars by the end of this decade be the kind of national rallying point we need?

It would inspire the best and brightest to pursue astrophysics instead of exotic financial careers, spur public and private investments in aerospace (and by extension, defense) technology, and give Americans a reason to wave Old Glory together apart from a sporting event or wartime.  It would also make good on the president’s implied promise to be the heir of John F. Kennedy, the first chief executive to call for a national moon shot.

For that, though, this president would need a quality that has so far eluded him: the courage to lay down an unmistakable threshold of success.