Friday, July 9, 2010

No Americans in Space Anymore?

I've written about NASA's plight before ("Bang Zoom"). President Obama made what I consider a big mistake in effectively destroying our country's manned space program. I recently read another article on the subject "NASA = No Americans in Space Anymore?" From the article:
Constellation represents five years of R&D and a $10-billion taxpayer investment, and it has demonstrated success. However, Obama has said that Constellation should be canceled because it was "over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation."
It is true that NASA projects have often fallen behind schedule and have certainly gone over budget estimates. However, NASA is charged with exploring and studying space, which happens to be, well, out in space.
The article goes on to explain just how innovative and successful NASA is. I suggest you follow the link and read the whole article. For more examples of NASA innovation, watch the Modern Marvels episode "It Came from Outer Space".

But I digress. In the original quote I emboldened one assumption of the article which is apparently incorrect. Yes, NASA was once charged with exploring space. NASA's charter from congress reads:
Sec. 203. (a) The Administration, in order to carry out the purpose of this Act, shall--

    (1) plan, direct, and conduct aeronautical and space activities;
    (2) arrange for participation by the scientific community in planning scientific measurements and observations to be made through use of aeronautical and space vehicles, and conduct or arrange for the conduct of such measurements and observations;
    (3) provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof;
    (4) seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space; and
    (5) encourage and provide for Federal Government use of commercially provided space services and hardware, consistent with the requirements of the Federal Government. 

However, President Obama seems to have changed the mission of NASA from what congress has specified.

In the video above NASA chief Charles Bolden tells how President Obama has given NASA new tasks:
When I became the NASA administrator, or before I became the NASA administrator, [Obama] 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, math, and engineering.
How is this legal? All issues of "is this the right thing for NASA to do?" (the answer is NO):

1) How does a president tell an administration created by congress, tasked with a mission by congress, and funded by congress to explore space that they are to focus on public relations and propaganda rather than space?
2) What happened to the "establishment clause" that the administration has trotted out to attack Christian groups and religious activities? Isn't saying "we will direct a government administration to honor Islam" a grievous violation of that clause?


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