In what appears to be a Bush attempt at out-Kennedying JFK, ‘ol GW apparently is slashing NASA’s research funds by $59.8 billion in order to make budgetary room to salvage his pompous and extravagant scheme to get a moon base in his name set up by 2020 and a Mars mission soon after. Of course financing it will become another administration’s problem, having no choice but to find a way to fund it long after he’s gone due to the money already spent on it by then. His pet moon project has already cost us taxpayers dearly, and it is estimated to grow to $3.98 billion by 2007. (Funds in my opinion that could definitely be better used armoring soldiers’ vehicles in Iraq or saving our vanishing middle class from extinction.)
There are two issues that this affects, one political and one scientific.
Let’s cover science first.
NASA is undergoing a historic shift in direction without consulting scientists or paying attention to their advice. Projects with great appeal to scientists and to the public—including the search for planets around other stars and the study of dark energy—are being abandoned so that NASA can return astronauts to the moon half a century after the Apollo landings.
Reports from such sources as Space.com, NewScientistSpace, and the U.S. House of Representatives show that between now and 2011, in order to make monetary room for his ambitions, it’s been reported that the following scientific projects will be either cut or intentionally delayed long enough for the technology to become obsolete. Some of the projects that have already had a massive amount of time and effort put into them but that Bush is determined to scrap are…
Delaying of the launch of SIM (Space Interferometry Mission) until 2018. The SIM’s main mission is to accurately estimate the age of our universe (something creationists oppose), search for planets similar to Earth, and chart nearby stars in our galaxy capable of supporting life.
Cancellation of such projects as LISA (Laser Interferometry Space Antenna,) which was designed to find gravity waves that could be used to map the warped fabric of time around suspected black holes and to investigate how they agree with Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Also on the block for cancellation or delay is a planned array of orbiting X-ray detectors designed to find new galaxies, black holes, dark energy and matter. (Discoveries that also would interfere with Creationist’s views of God’s universe as they see it) Also slated for cuts is the cancellation or delay of the Joint Dark Energy Mission designed to put an instrument in space capable of measuring the amount of “Dark Matter” in the universe and possibly validating its age and a reason for the theory of an expanding universe.
Cancellation or delay into obsolescence the LandSat Data Continuity Mission, the Wide-Field Infrared Explorer and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory.
Delaying of the launch until 2014 (after he’s long gone from office) of a satellite system designed to track global weather systems called the GPM (Global Precipitation Measurement) to monitor planetary weather changes, and incidentally possibly confirm the damage that Global Warming is doing to our environment. The Hydrosphere State mission designed to track changing carbon, water, and energy phases of the changing freeze and thaw sequences in frigid zones on Earth could go too.
A plan to launch two space telescopes to search for evidence of planetary formation in stellar dust clouds call the Terrestrial Planet Finder mission.
Astrobiology sciences will suffer from the loss of a planned unmanned mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa to look for long-suspected liquid water and life. Also canceled are follow-up investigations into a plume of water discovered by astronomers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
Also gutted is a mission to Mars designed to bring back rock samples and return them to Earth, and also the NuSTAR X-ray space telescope array.
Aside from haphazard hardware and mission cuts, Bush has eliminated funds that would’ve financed university students across America pouring over the immense amount of scientific data coming in from past space missions yet to be analyzed, possibly revealing many unfound and overlooked great scientific discoveries, but now that data will sit useless in warehouses and databases for years to come. Some financial resources for projects dozens of years in the planning and execution stages are being dumped (despite commitments to other countries) and could seriously hurt international cooperation with the U.S. To name a couple, there’s NuStar with the Danish National Space Center and Constellation X with the Brera Astronomical Observatory in Italy.
And speaking of Danish and Italian interests…
On the political front
To add insult to injury, President Bush has recently agreed to have India launch two American lunar mapping instruments from their space hub in Bangalore in 2008 rather than having it done from NASA’s facilities in Florida! Not only does this have the effect of helping India get a leg up on China’s space program, but also it potentially damages our relationship with competing Pakistan.
This means that India will be taking over NASA’s $89 million two-year project to put American payloads into a 62-mile lunar orbit to find possible polar ice in the areas of the moon permanently out of our view and to map landing sites. Of the approximate 15-20 planned instruments aboard, 11 if them will be made in India, with a possible additional three devices coming from the European Space Agency.
Is President Bush really pushing India to compete with a Chinese plan to put an orbital rover on the lunar surface by 2012 without considering the international political consequences? Everyone seems to be overlooking the fact that India’s four-stage Chandrayann-1 rocket that’s going to be used for this mission is also potentially the same device being developed for carrying possible nuclear warheads, and that the research and technology provided by the U.S. could help them toward that end! (In case you didn’t notice, George — India didn’t sign the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.)
Makes you wonder if Bush fantasizes of the day when Kennedy Space Center is renamed the “GW Bush Space Port”, and the Johnson Space Center in Houston becoming the “Cheney Space Launch Headquarters” doesn’t it? Without a doubt this administration has done more to damage or hamper the advancement of Science not only in our Schools, but now in space as well.
But of course this is only my opinion.
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