1.14.2004

POLITICS - Moon Patrol

I don't feel like writing a fancy, grammatically correct post. But I would like to make a few comments about Bush's Spaced Out Proposal.

NASA has an annual budget of about $15 billion USD. It has tight purse strings, and there aren't any real "pet" projects or useless projects. Shifting $11B in a $15B budget is not easy... in fact, it's not possible without a serious restructure of the entire program. If you have a fifteen dollar meal budget for your entire family, how easy can you shift around eleven bucks?

Boeing's rough estimate of developing a replacement for the space shuttle is $20 Billion. Bush wants to scrap the shuttle, but has not commented on where the R&D funds for the new craft would come from.

The Bush Administration would like to scrap the International Space Station right now. The ISS is underfunded, and its six man research crew has been reduced down to a maintenance crew of two. If Bush really wanted to show committment to the space program and the future of space research, he would find a way to send up the other four ISS crew members.

I don't know how to classify Bush's space proposals. "Out of this world" is apt, but so is "out of his freakin' mind". If Bush has refused to commit the resources to complete and staff the ISS, what makes anybody believe he's interested in building a base on the moon? A trip to Mars was estimated to cost $400-$500 Billion in 1990. Such an estimate now would tip the scales at close to $1 Trillion, and that doesn't even include a COSTLY moon base (perhaps over a trillion). I'd be surprised to see the American taxpayers open their wallets for that.

It's important to note that under this proposal, the Department of Defense will be working much more closely with NASA. I hate to think that an unnecessary restructuring might shift money towards DoD space programs, instead of traditional NASA research (which isn't entirely devoted to the study of moon rocks and asteroids).

American conservatives have long wanted to tinker with NASA and recreate it into an agency whose goals are "sympathetic" with the Army. Slip this proposal through Congress, let them pull out the expensive Mars stuff, and give NASA over to the DoD. I'm afraid that is the goal here, and it has been disguised by Bush's "aw shucks" snake oil.

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