credit change.gov / caption: Obama’s space policy is still rhetoric
Many scientists will no doubt be cheering the fact that US president Barack Obama has confirmed that he will be greenlighting the $1.5 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer mission, adding one more flight to the shuttle manifest, not that the manifest on nasa.gov is showing it yet
And well done to Orlando Sentinel’s Mark Matthews for putting the question to Obama about the impact of Shuttle’s shutdown on the Florida economy, quantified as 28,000 direct and indirect jobs by Matthews. Sadly Obama’s response shows that despite the president’s fiscal year (FY) 2010 budget proposal for the agency the space programme is some way off from having a clear cut futureBeyond the partisan rhetoric about the space agency being adrift for a number of years the review of NASA’s core mission, as Obama puts it, suggests an extended review period that combined with a Shuttle retirement in just over a year must be terrifying for people at the Cape
Imagine the situation, Shuttle is months away from being shut down and Constellation hangs in the balance as climate change and new fantasy energy sources vie for the paltry sums (compared to other parts of the government) that NASA has to offer; what job prospects are there, if any, for all of the KSC workforce?
Considering the importance of Florida in the political system it seems suicidal to me that any politician would want to end a major source of income for so many voters in the lead up to the beginning of a reelection campaign. Excuse my ignorance of US political history but did Jimmy Carter ever do anything that stupid?
Then we come to the FY2010 budget proposal, which only makes Obama’s comments even more strange – and Jeff Foust can correct me on this if I have got this wrong - but once an appropriation bill is signed off by the president those monies can only be spent on what the appropriation act stipulates, right?
So what does Congress do when the president wants this review and yet the review could be at odds with the legal expenditure the agency can carry out until 30 September 2010? Mmm, not bother to vote on it?
Somehow I can’t see the FY2010 budget getting signed off and NASA will be stuck at the FY2009 level, another continuing resolution. And all that extra money that the FY2010 budget offered has faded away
Obama talks about a mission fit for the 21st century, well surely going back to the Mon as a first step to opening up thesolar system to human colonsiation, in effect, how more inspirational can it get?
I am not professing any support for former president George Bush’s policies but it is hard to argue that keeping human spaceflight in low Earth orbit or even ending it in favour of climate science and increased robotic exploration is going to somehow be more inspirational
Hopefully in the near future Obama will know that he is appointing the NASA administrator as well, and not a director…