Saturday, February 13, 2010


In my darker moods, I have been known to speculate that, these days, NASA has become one of the biggest impediments to space exploration; that it has morphed into the post office running what's supposed to be a cutting-edge, scientific and engineering enterprise. Along the way it has become risk-averse; timid and mundane in its goals. Though it has been some time since NASA was actually "cutting edge"; and a decade or two since it dreamed big, it surely doesn't deserve the mediocre fate that Obama has decreed for it. Instead, it should have always been a fierce facilitator of space exploration in the private sector; and it should have paved the way for the U.S. to have a strong military advantage by controlling the patch of space around our planet and its nearest neighbors.

Charles Krauthammer sums up the closing of the space frontier in a recent editorial:
Our absence from low-Earth orbit was meant to last a few years, the interval between the retirement of the fatally fragile space shuttle and its replacement with the Constellation program (Ares booster, Orion capsule, Altair lunar lander) to take astronauts more cheaply and safely back to space.

But the Obama 2011 budget kills Constellation. Instead, we shall have nothing. For the first time since John Glenn flew in 1962, the United States will have no access of its own for humans into space -- and no prospect of getting there in the foreseeable future.

Of course, the administration presents the abdication as a great leap forward: Launching humans will be turned over to the private sector, while NASA's efforts will be directed toward landing on Mars....

Of course, the whole Mars project as substitute for the moon is simply a ruse. It's like the classic bait-and-switch for high-tech military spending: Kill the doable in the name of some distant sophisticated alternative, which either never gets developed or is simply killed later in the name of yet another, even more sophisticated alternative of the further future. A classic example is the B-1 bomber, which was canceled in the 1970s in favor of the over-the-horizon B-2 stealth bomber, which was then killed in the 1990s after a production run of only 21 (instead of 132) in the name of post-Cold War obsolescence.

Moreover, there is the question of seriousness. When John F. Kennedy pledged to go to the moon, he meant it. He had an intense personal commitment to the enterprise. He delivered speeches remembered to this day. He dedicated astronomical sums to make it happen.

At the peak of the Apollo program, NASA was consuming almost 4 percent of the federal budget, which in terms of the 2011 budget is about $150 billion. Today the manned space program will die for want of $3 billion a year -- 1/300th of last year's stimulus package with its endless make-work projects that will leave not a trace on the national consciousness.

As for President Obama's commitment to beyond-lunar space: Has he given a single speech, devoted an iota of political capital to it?

Obama's NASA budget perfectly captures the difference in spirit between Kennedy's liberalism and Obama's. Kennedy's was an expansive, bold, outward-looking summons. Obama's is a constricted, inward-looking call to retreat.

Fifty years ago, Kennedy opened the New Frontier. Obama has just shut it.

Read it all.

Mediocrity and incompetence has so far been the hallmark of the messiah of 'hope and change'. He has distorted the past and refused to learn from it; in the present, he has squandered the goodwill of the American people who elected him hoping he represented something new and better than 'politics as usual'. But he has foisted an extreme leftwing agenda on the US; and has mortgaged the future of our children--both in financial terms and in aspirational ones. By shutting the New Frontier, Obama has insured that our children never go boldly where no one has gone before.

Under his 'leadership,' America is now boldly going nowhere--and at warp speed.

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