Thursday, January 15, 2004

The finger pointing at the moon....

Kevin Drum is pretty cynical about the Bush Administration's new space policy. I don't share Kevin's attitude of "Space, schmace -- been there, done that, let's work on nanotechnology instead", but I share his lack of enthusiasm on the other grounds he mentions.

I'm not sure, though, if it's really fair to list the space policy alongside other Bush policies that are specifically designed to really take effect after a Bush second term would end, a habit of the President's that Kevin noted a while back. The space policy really is something that would take that long. It frustrates the hell out of me, as a space exploration fan, that we allowed things to atrophy to the point where we're going to have to do everything from the ground up again, but that's the way of it. It would have been this way for any President proposing such a space policy.

Here's another fairly negative reaction, by Robert Merkel, which points out that the Moon is not a worthless destination in itself, but in the context of Mars missions, the Moon makes no sense. He also links an editorial by Jeffrey Bell, a planetologist at the University of Hawaii, in which Bell suggests that the new policy's funding will, among other things, require NASA to stop the kinds of "pure science" missions that it has actually become so good at since the "Ho hum" attitude of manned flight took hold: space-based telescopes, probes to asteroids and Kuiper Belt objects, et cetera. That's kind of weird for a policy that's purportedly about science.

Finally, Gregg Easterbrook wrote about the new policy a week ago. His verdict? "Either he's [President Bush] a science illiterate surrounded by advisors who are science illiterates, or it's a blank check for aerospace contractors." Ouch.

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