Saturday, April 14, 2012

NASA Cuts: What Is Obama Thinking?

Congress is right now considering future budgets for the funding of our space program, and it's got me extremely worried. The Obama administration has proposed deep cuts, especially for planetary sciences. This is crazy, stupid, and short-sighted, and I call upon Congress to turn this thing around—please! Let's continue funding our world-class space program, especially for space and planetary sciences, which since the Apollo days have been the capstone of American scientific exploration. The U.S. has already pulled out of one important international planetary mission, based just on the proposed budget. It would be a travesty to cancel other cutting-edge space missions.

It's practically a given most of the American public thinks we spend a lot more on the space program than we actually do. In fact, NASA's budget has always been a drop in the bucket compared to the Defense Department's. Even at the height of the relatively extravagant days of the Apollo Moon landing program, the space program only accounted for a few percent of the federal budget. Since then it's been sharply cut back. And now they want to cut it back even further. This despite the fact that every dollar spent on space helps to stimulate the economy, maintain our leadership in science and technology, inspire young scientists and engineers—and that's in addition to advancing our knowledge of the universe, and laying the groundwork for a future spacefaring civilization.

The Obama budget would put the brakes on all of this. And when you put the brakes on a programs like this, you don't just slow things down, you cause enormous disruption to long-range endeavors and put highly trained people out of work, people whom you might not be able to get back a few years down the road. I'm an Obama supporter, but this may be his administration's single most misguided action.

To voice your support of space exploration, contact your Congress critter. One way you can do that is by signing on with the message from the Planetary Society, which you can dispatch to your representatives here.

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At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm also a huge supporter of most NASA space programs, but the result of current cuts and delays in planetary initiatives has to go back to the previous administration.

Primarily, Bush2 admin lacked vision and clarity for long/short term NASA objectives by prematurely deciding to end the Space Shuttle-based system. At the earliest, no Crew Exploration Vehicle replacement could be expected to launch until well into a hypothetical second Obama term of office. Yes, the Shuttle program was reaching the end of its life-cycle, but with considered safety precautions the system could have been extended to make a reasonable transition towards the next generation CEV. That's been the natural evolution of U.S. space flight since the days of Project Mercury—up until today.

Most significantly, the Obama administration's past decision for NASA budget cuts has to be taken in context of the major national recession, which was inherited. Efforts to move the economy forward have been a consuming priority. Hopefully, whichever administration is in office next year, can begin supporting major funding of the U.S. Space Program.

Some good news—the U.S. Space Launch System (using liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel) is scheduled to launch in 2017. The privately funded SpaceX mission, (initiated through "The commercial orbital transportation services program" in 2005 by the Bush administration) has celebrated some major successes this year in delivering cargo to the International Space Station.

If you would like to see my multimedia essays on NASA's efforts to protect the nation's economy and society from solar storms please see: or


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