Thursday, January 22, 2004

Smart Politics, Stupid Policies

January 22, 2004

*Problem: Most of the world hates me.

*Solution: Take us to space! Again!

President Bush has decided that in the wake of the massive backlash his war has caused, he's going to make several shameless bids for public approval, among them the refinancing of NASA with the goal of going to the moon again, and from there, Mars. Coming conveniently on the heels of the Mars rover's landing and transmission of high-resolution pictures, Bush's plan puts us back on the moon no later than 2020 and on Mars no sooner than 2030. The budget for the first phase of the project? $12 billion, a figure that many criticize as far too little to build the space vehicle Bush envisions.

So what's getting scrapped to pay for this? The net increase in NASA's budget is a mere billion dollars. The other $11 billion is going to be shuffled around inside the space agency, taken from several current projects. The first thing to go is our support of the international space station, followed by the Hubble telescope. Two days after Bush announced the change in financial priorities, NASA announced that further missions to service the telescope will be scrapped, citing concerns over safety in the wake of the explosion of the Columbia. You believe that? Yeah, me either.

Am I in favor of more missions to space? Certainly! Frankly, I think it's a crime we don't have a generation ship passing the orbit of Jupiter at the moment, and an articulated goal is good for NASA. Nonetheless, we're looking at having the entire shuttle program phased out over the course of the next decade in favor of a pie-in-the-sky political maneuver. We need to be focusing on new propulsion systems and solid ways to support human life for extended periods of time in space, not throwing still more underfunded mandates (No Astronaut Left Behind?) at the American people in a pathetic attempt to win votes. Bush (TERRORIST) once again (9-11) proves himself (GOD) the master of (PATRIOTISM) misdirection.

Got something to say?

SauceFiller@hotmail.com

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