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January 10, 2004

SCRAP IT ALL?....Regular readers know that I think dreams of moonbases and manned missions to Mars are quaint and ridiculous. We've been to the moon and there's nothing there. Unmanned missions can do exploration beyond earth orbit better than manned missions, and if we're looking for some big science projects to spend money on — something I'm usually in favor of — there are plenty of choices that would be more inspirational and more worthwhile than trying to recover the glory of the sixties with yet more manned space missions.

But leave that aside for a moment. Mark Kleiman (and others) are especially upset because it appears that George Bush wants to pay for this boondoggle by gutting the rest of the space program. His concern is based on this paragraph in a UPI story:

Sources said Bush will direct NASA to scale back or scrap all existing programs that do not support the new effort. Further details about the plan and the space agency's revised budget will be announced in NASA briefings next week and when the president delivers his FY 2005 budget to Congress.

If that means scrapping all current manned space programs in favor of new ones, then I'm probably OK with it (aside from my general dislike of shoveling money at manned space programs, of course). But if it means what Mark thinks it means — scrapping all other space programs, including unmanned research missions — then it's just mind bogglingly stupid and shortsighted. Sadly, given Bush's track record, mind bogglingly stupid and shortsighted is probably the way to bet.

UPDATE: Oh crap. In comments, Hari links to this story quoting one of our local nutbag congressmen:

"Setting up operations on the moon is affordable, as long as it is taken as a primary goal for the American space program and not larded onto all of the other things that NASA does," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), chairman of the House subcommittee on space and aeronautics. As an example, he cited NASA's efforts to assess global warming, saying: "Over the years, we have spent tens of billions of dollars of NASA money proving global warming is occurring, which I think is suspect and debatable."

Jeez, why didn't I think of that? The Republicans get to spend lots of money on their Texas and California aerospace pals and they get to cut back on that pesky research showing that global warming is real.

It's just s-o-o-o-o annoying when scientific research flies in the face of your personal opinions, isn't it? Apparently conservative Lysenkoism is alive and well in Huntington Beach.

Posted by Kevin Drum at January 10, 2004 12:44 PM | TrackBack


Comments

This is depressing as hell. Not content with making a big mess here on Earth, Bush seems determined to make another big mess off the planet.

What vague details I've seen of his proposed mission to Mars make no sense. I'm a fan of space exploration, manned and unmanned, but there's no way I could ever trust Bush to get this right.

Posted by: PS at January 10, 2004 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

First, Bush has no intention of following through on this. It's just talk to divert attention from his many failures, including the Iraq debacle, the sluggish economy, and the ruin of public finances.

Second, the Moon and Mars will wait. They'll be there when we are in a position to go. That time is obviously not now, not after Bush bankrupted the government for decades.

Posted by: grytpype at January 10, 2004 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

First, Bush has no intention of following through on this. It's just talk to divert attention from his many failures, including the Iraq debacle, the sluggish economy, and the ruin of public finances.

I knew it! As usual, an alterior motive by the evil Bush!

Bush lied, space programs died

Posted by: sickles at January 10, 2004 01:19 PM | PERMALINK

PS:

Since you obviously don't trust Bush, if he gets reelected in November, can you trust the part of the electorate that does trust him?

Posted by: sickles at January 10, 2004 01:22 PM | PERMALINK

That passage in the UPI story caught my eye too.
Here's an enlightening statement from a story in today's LA Times:

"Setting up operations on the moon is affordable, as long as it is taken as a primary goal for the American space program and not larded onto all of the other things that NASA does," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), chairman of the House subcommittee on space and aeronautics. As an example, he cited NASA's efforts to assess global warming, saying: "Over the years, we have spent tens of billions of dollars of NASA money proving global warming is occurring, which I think is suspect and debatable."

I guess he's right ... no reason to do research when you already know everything.

Posted by: Hari at January 10, 2004 01:24 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, but Gryptype, even if Bush doesn't follow through on the manned programs, he could still gut the unmanned programs anyway. Would you put it past him?

Posted by: JP at January 10, 2004 01:35 PM | PERMALINK

Sickles, part of me wants to believe that most of the folks who voted (or will vote) for Bush are good and honest but simply deluded by all the lies. Another part of me keeps thinking that people who can allow themselves to become so deluded, who have allowed themselves to become so incapable of rational thought and analysis, don't deserve any trust.

I keep fluctuating between those positions.

The main reason I don't trust the Bush crowd on space exploration is because they have shown themselves to be almost completely ignorant of science and the scientific method; it's all politics to them.

Posted by: PS at January 10, 2004 01:38 PM | PERMALINK

sickles, what part of the electorate is that, and why should I trust them since they obviously have such wretchedly bad judgment?

JP, I wouldn't put any damn thing past Bush. But if he gutted the unmanned programs, that would just be a footnote to the worst presidential administration since the Civil War.

Posted by: grytpype at January 10, 2004 01:41 PM | PERMALINK

Ten reasons Bush has for going to the Moon and Mars:

1. Prove we don’t need clear air or water to survive…
2. Search for more aliens willing to work in the US on a permit basis…
3. So he can be the first president of a whole planet…
4. He really didn’t understand what the Project for the New American Century was about…
5. He thinks Terra-forming sounds more compassionate…
6. Read Ray Bradbury’s story, “The Other Foot,” about how blacks left America for Mars…
7. When he wears a space suit no will say he has socks in the crotch…
8. If he can get a cow to jump over the moon that the "mad cow" thing will go away…
9. He wants to be both Kennedy and Nixon…
10. Prove that he can do what his dad couldn’t, once again…

Posted by: Scaramouche at January 10, 2004 01:43 PM | PERMALINK

Another part of me keeps thinking that people who can allow themselves to become so deluded, who have allowed themselves to become so incapable of rational thought and analysis, don't deserve any trust.

In other words, if someone else comes up with a different point of view on their vote than your own, they're incapable of "rational thought and analysis."

While I understand the emotions behind the thought (as a Libertarian, why on God's green Earth do we have taxes???) I also understand that others who don't think the same way aren't trustworthy because the came up with different poltical conclusions. And they're no less rational than I am for that matter.

If it's all politics to them then what is it to you ?

Posted by: sickles at January 10, 2004 01:48 PM | PERMALINK

"Since you obviously don't trust Bush, if he gets reelected in November, can you trust the part of the electorate that does trust him?"

Tell you what, sickles: I'll make you a promise. I promise that if Bush wins the election, I won't plot a coup d'etat against his regime.

That's generous of me, isn't it? Must I also trust the people who voted him into power? Why? I don't think that they trust me.

Posted by: Julian at January 10, 2004 01:50 PM | PERMALINK

grtpype:

That would be the part of the electorate that doesn't vote like yourself. They're there and you tolerate them whether you admit it or not. And you trust them as well, because unless you're taking up physical arms against the country, you've accepted the outcome of prior elections even though you disagree with the poilicies of the elected official, in this case, President Bush.

Posted by: sickles at January 10, 2004 01:53 PM | PERMALINK

We've been to the moon and there's nothing there.

Let see there, the surface of the Moon is about the size of South America. We've explored considerably less than twenty square miles of it. Folks here would worth themselves into a bit of a froth if the President suggested he'd "explored" Iraq with his three hour mission, but he's seen about as much of Iraq as we have of the moon.

Do I think this plan is a good one? Not really. But writing off the Moon because there's "nothing there" is enormously silly.

Posted by: Andrew at January 10, 2004 01:55 PM | PERMALINK

Julian, that is generous! In fact, because you will not instigate a coup de tat, I will state here outright that i trust you!

Unless you feel the opposite party is capable of a coup de tat, you can trust them as well. That's the inherent nature to the rule of law, isn't it?

Posted by: sickles at January 10, 2004 01:59 PM | PERMALINK

Give me a break, Sickles. I don't consider people untrustworthy because their views are different from mine. Some of the most trustworthy people I know have strikingly different positions from my own on many issues.

Bush lies and shows no interest in anything that doesn't serve his ends or his political interests. That makes him untrustworthy. Period. And I have to worry about people who are so easily taken in by those lies.

Posted by: PS at January 10, 2004 01:59 PM | PERMALINK

Sickles:

Guilty as charged. Democracy is the worst form of government ever conceived, except for all of the alternatives, etc.

Do *you* trust the judgment of voters with whom you disagree?

Curiously,
Julian

P.S. I'm new to this medium. What does GRTYPE mean?

Posted by: Julian at January 10, 2004 02:00 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe I'm too cynical about this administration, but I think it's a ploy to gut the space program period. Bush will have to scramble to cut descretionary spending and NASA is full of big ticket items that the science-allergic White House have no use for. Cut NASA's budget drastically, reroute Mars and moon "research" funds to the Texas, Florida and California aerospace industries and be done with it. It's typical Bush packaging: promise the moon (and in this case Mars as well) then either underfund or divert money and project control from government "bureaucrats" to industry cronies.

Posted by: fastback at January 10, 2004 02:07 PM | PERMALINK

In other words, if someone else comes up with a different point of view on their vote than your own, they're incapable of "rational thought and analysis."

This isn't about a "different point of view", nor is it about ideology or even politics. It's about trust, and trust is built on experience and common sense.

This Admin has lied about practically everything since its inception. It has reneged on promises (remember the $20B Bush promised NY so it could rebuild when he was standing on the WTC rubble, for example?); characterized laws, rules and policies as having certain goals that in fact had the opposite goals, and manipulated us into our first pre-emptive war using bogus arguments and false evidence.

If A consistently lies to and takes advantage of B, and yet B insists on trusting A and asks me to trust him as well, what do you think common sense would tell me to answer?

"Um, I don't think so."

This would be a different conversation if Bush&Co had set forth and defended their actual beliefs and positions. But they haven't. They'd rather lie about them. How could any rational person person ask us to support them knowing this? no matter what their political affiliation?

Posted by: maja at January 10, 2004 02:12 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, there are some weak, loser attitudes laden within this post and it's comments.

Is it funny or surprising to me that this position on the issue of manned space flights boils down to 'Bush is a dummy?'

Nope. It USED to be funny, but now, well now, it's just getting plain pathetic.

Posted by: bj at January 10, 2004 02:15 PM | PERMALINK

Count me in with the "weak loser attitudes."

Can you say BOONDOGGLE? Let us say, for the sake of argument, that Bush (and Rove, since this is largely Rove's idea) really and truly mean it. So, they'll get the extra dough from the rubber-stamp Congress by doubling the Federal deficit.

That economic collapse will follow is a certainty. Our current debt is unsustainable; doubling it would run interest rates up to double digits while the dollar would become par with the ruble.

Yeah! We'll be the only third-world nation with a Moon station!

Posted by: Derelict at January 10, 2004 02:46 PM | PERMALINK

I am one of those who love space exploration, especially when it impinges on some of the big cosmological questions as it does with the Hubble Space Telescope. But; it is clearly not ethical for it to be financed by the government. I cannot justify forcing others to pay for the entertainment of my intellectual curiosity. It isn't any more fair to those who don't share my interest to force them to subsidize it then it is to force taxpayers to subsidize the building of new stadiums for NFL franchise owners.

The most expensive tools of space exploration used to be the huge telescopes and they were largly funded with non-government money. Many people love space exploration and it seems that their numbers and enthusiasm would afford many commercial and charity avenues for the financing of space exploration. There are currently private satellite launch companies in operation as well as hundreds of organizations for astronomy/space enthusiasts.

If space exploration were privatized there would be a motivation for those doing it to both educate the lay community about it as well as to cater to their scientific interests in order to generate donor support from them. This dynamic would tend to more actively involve the general public in the enterprise then they are now with the taxpayer funded space program.

The political power wielded by those who receive tax dollars for the government space program could well prove a formidable obstacle to eliminating it. Perhaps a way to over come this obstacle and transition into private space exploration would be to give tax credits to those who make donations to non-government space exploration during the transition period.

Posted by: Rick Barton at January 10, 2004 02:47 PM | PERMALINK

This sure smells like a Trojan horse to me. I'll be pleasantly surprised if it isn't. But trust is earned, not granted. Further, distrust takes much longer to overcome. And Bush (more properly, in light of recent news, Bush's advisors) have generated quite a bit of distrust in me.

So I say, this is the wrong way to go about space exploration, but it would be cool if it went somewhere. But I would be extremely surprised if we have made any concrete progress on this proposal when Bush leaves office. Well, other than gutting all the parts of NASA that weren't good for Bush's PR.

If you can look at a hissing cobra and say 'give it a chance, you cynical man' I say, no thanks, fool. I'm an optimist -- but that can only get me so far. At some point, reality intrudes.

And the reality is that Bush's State of the Union really should be focused on our plan for ensuring success in Iraq and Afghanistan, and what we are going to do about the massive deficits Bush created, and what steps are being taken to restore faith, at home and abroad, in the long term viability of the American economy. The SotU should not be about getting into space, not right now. And this comes from a died-in-the-wool space exploration junkie. This is a smoke-screen; a politically convenient diversion.

Posted by: Timothy Klein at January 10, 2004 02:48 PM | PERMALINK

From that Hari's article:

When Bush's father was president, he proposed a Mars and moon mission but made little effort to recruit political support for the idea. At that time, NASA produced a series of cost estimates, some of which called for spending $20 billion a year for 20 years. The sticker shock alone doomed the program.

Back in those days a few billion was a big deal. Now we have no problem in running a war that is costing $150 billion a year, or running deficits on the order of half a trillion per year including funding the missile defense system (1.2 Trillion?). I'm sure we won't mind having our descendents pay for Bush's newest dream, especially if it can be used to defund any science Bush doesn't believe in.

Posted by: Mary at January 10, 2004 02:59 PM | PERMALINK

Andrew: "...writing off the Moon because there's "nothing there" is enormously silly."

The "writing off" is a fact of history. Since Apollo 17, there've been 8 (count 'em, six) missions to the moon. Half of those were the last of the Soviet Luna series, including Luna 21, which had a rover, and Luna 24, which returned samples. Japan sent a small orbiter in 1990 as part of the MUSES-A/Hiten mission, but contact was lost. The US had nothing until Clementine in 1994 and Lunar Prospector in 1998. And as of today, Europe's SMART-1 probe is slowly heading moonward, using an ion engine.

That's all there is, despite the urgent call over the last 31 years for a return to the Moon.

Posted by: Grumpy at January 10, 2004 02:59 PM | PERMALINK

Five will get you ten that Bush publicly announces during the State of the Union the our national goal should be to, by the end of this decade, "to be the first nation land a man on the Sun and bring him safely back to Earth." By the 10:00am next morning, the queue in front of the Immigration Services window at the Canadian Embassy will stretch two blocks or more down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at January 10, 2004 03:00 PM | PERMALINK

That should be, "Count 'em, eight." Is there a copy editor in the house??

Posted by: Grumpy at January 10, 2004 03:01 PM | PERMALINK

The chances of this being a big thrust in the manned (expensive) vs. unmanned (afforable, better science) fight is 100%. I wonder if the big contractors are behind this. Not.

It must really piss off the big guys that the Shuttle is so screwed up when a garage shop like JPL can drive a car on Mars.

Posted by: Pacific John at January 10, 2004 03:04 PM | PERMALINK

It's amazing that Rohrabacher has no problem with saying in the same sentence that the govt has proved that global warming is occurring, and then that those results, despite actually being proff, are "suspect and debatable".

There is only one truth! There aren't competing truths! We may know nothing about something, but once we know something about it, the possibility of knowing the opposite no longer exists.

Posted by: Cryptic Ned at January 10, 2004 03:05 PM | PERMALINK

Despite having lived in Texas for much of his life and having been Governor for six years, Bush never visited the Johnson Space Center in Houston until he was President and Karl Rove needed a photo-op. Why would anyone think that Bush has any real interest in space exploration, the moon, or Mars? This is all just a rather lame attempt to divert the public's attention from the failures of this Administration. Sadly, lame attempt or not, it's working.

Posted by: Basharov at January 10, 2004 03:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Sadly, lame attempt or not, it's working."

No, it's not, at least not yet. I don't live in the rarefied atmosphere of political junkies--most of the folks I know are ordinary working stiffs, and they haven't paid any attention to this at all. They're still focused on Iraq and the failing economy. This time, Rove's slight-of-hand doesn't seem to be playing very well.

Posted by: maja at January 10, 2004 03:17 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Kevin Drum: "Let's sit here on our dead asses and become extinct!"

You're smarter than that, Kevin.

Posted by: Susan Paxton at January 10, 2004 03:29 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I, for one, have the number of this Administration. When I first heard about this, MY VERY FIRST THOUGHT was that they'd get rid of any scientific research programs to pay for this.

I kid you not. That was my very first thought.

This is just a tool to ensure that NOTHING the government produces can in ANY WAY conflict with the President's political opinions.

Posted by: Tony Shifflett at January 10, 2004 03:35 PM | PERMALINK

Maja:

This would be a different conversation if Bush&Co had set forth and defended their actual beliefs and positions. But they haven't. They'd rather lie about them. How could any rational person person ask us to support them knowing this? no matter what their political affiliation?

This administration hasn't lied about a thing. You making a statement that they are doesn't make it truth. You simply don't like their policies so you call them liars.

And you're saying people who voted for Bush are irrational????

Posted by: sickles at January 10, 2004 03:45 PM | PERMALINK

I believe the Bushies' moon/Mars plans are for the purposes of militarizing space.

Posted by: Pol at January 10, 2004 03:48 PM | PERMALINK

This administration hasn't lied about a thing. You making a statement that they are doesn't make it truth. You simply don't like their policies so you call them liars.

I guess this is ballsy, at least. But if I were you, I wouldn't wait around for a debate of the issue on the merits.

Posted by: JP at January 10, 2004 03:58 PM | PERMALINK

sickles:
This administration hasn't lied about a thing.

Funny. You are saying something about the GWB admin. that most Americans would not say about any amdin. in the least 60 years. It has become the typical American viewpoint that all politicians lie. Likely, you yourself would take this viewpoint if you did not like the current admin.

If you honestly believe that GWB, or any President, has not lied about anything, you are incredibly naive. But I don't think you really believe that. You are more likely trolling.

How about you drop the 'people that voted for Bush are irrational' canard and actually discuss the issue at hand: the GWB space plan.

Posted by: Timothy Klein at January 10, 2004 04:03 PM | PERMALINK

I take all this to mean that the Bushies take seriously the Chinese talk about going to the moon.

I'm generally in favor of manned exploration, but like everything else that Bush does, the reality seldom matches the rhetoric. If he's going to gut unmanned exploration to pay for this, then I can't support it.

Posted by: FDRLincoln at January 10, 2004 04:13 PM | PERMALINK

Let's sit here on our dead asses and become extinct!

In the 60's, the US designed & built this.

The Japanese, this (and the infrastructure that it required) .

One was a wise investment, one wasn't.

The solar system isn't going anywhere, and contrary to the movies manned space travel isn't necessary to prevent cataclysmic impacts with NEOs.

The space tech spin-off argument used to justify NASA is 80% bollocks IMV. Apollo and the Shuttle did prompt a lot of great R&D, but any other comparable effort, eg. evacuated train tunnels, unmanned commuter rail, etc. would have also, while leaving something of more permanent value than a bunch of moonrocks in a locker.

Posted by: Troy at January 10, 2004 04:58 PM | PERMALINK

Japan's this

Posted by: Troy at January 10, 2004 04:58 PM | PERMALINK

Rohrabacher was also quoted in the WaPo as saying that the Mars and lunar missions should be done in tandem with the Russians, in order to keep the costs in check.

Having watched the cost of ISS balloon grotesquely in large measure *because* of the insistence that the Russians do much of the work, words fail me at this point.

Shuttle turned out to be a camel's-ass system largely because of interference from politicians who didn't know better. The initial design for Shuttle from NASA had a liquid-fueled, manned, flyback first stage. That would have been safer and cheaper.

Once the pols got finished, the original flyback booster was gone, replaced by the (lethal) jointed solid rocket boosters and the (lethal) foam-insulated External Tank assembly. What horrible compromises for Mars will they now inflict?

And isn't it about time for Rohrabacher to get knocked off? Southern California had the rare good sense to get rid of B-1 Bob. Is there a Loretta Sanchez analogue in Dana's district?

Posted by: marquer at January 10, 2004 05:48 PM | PERMALINK

For some people, support of Bush has reached the level of mental illness. The idea that someone could believe that Bush has never lied about anything is simply astounding.

Posted by: Walt Pohl at January 10, 2004 05:57 PM | PERMALINK

The idea that someone could believe

you haven't met many true libertarians, I see.

Posted by: Troy at January 10, 2004 06:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Over the years, we have spent tens of billions of dollars of NASA money proving global warming is occurring ..."

Tens of billions? Tens of billions! Could somebody please get Rep. Rohrabacher to back up this statement with appropriate sourcing. Jeez.

Posted by: Meteor Blades at January 10, 2004 06:27 PM | PERMALINK

Via Josh Marshall

"Affirming his commitment to manned space exploration, President Bush said Friday that his new budget will significantly boost funding for Space Station Freedom and other programs intended to help send astronauts back to the moon and to Mars and beyond."

Los Angeles Times
January 25th, 1992

Like father, like son.

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2004_01_04.html#002392

Posted by: Dave at January 10, 2004 07:05 PM | PERMALINK

The Dana R. quote was so apeshit crazy, factually, and ideologically, it didn't even register.

And he's chmn of the congressional committee on space.

I voted for Tom Campbell in 2000 instead of Feinstein, but I'm NEVER EVER voting (R) until the R's clean house on the idealogues.

Posted by: Troy at January 10, 2004 07:15 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing hard about all this. From the NY Times - "When up and running, the spaceport in Florida employs some 14,000 people and each year pumps $1.4 billion into the state's economy".

That's 14,000 votes.

But James Carville said it best - "this administration would put a man on the moon and then leave the poor son of a bitch stranded up there because they wouldn't have a plan to bring him home."

Posted by: andante at January 10, 2004 09:00 PM | PERMALINK

Marquer, take heart: Bob Dornan is going up against Rohrabacher in the Republican primary.

Unfortunately, there aren't enough Democrats in that district to elect a someone who isn't a nutball.

Posted by: bad Jim at January 10, 2004 09:01 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't watched much TV lately, but I just know that Fox is showing all sorts of Kennedyesque crap about the little turd.

Posted by: Magnum at January 10, 2004 09:28 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, this comment is way downthread, so I doubt that you are going to read it. Remember how you initially supported the Iraqi war, but then realized that the Bush administration was going to fuck it up, and withdrew your support? Well, I support manned exploration of the solar system, but it took me about two minutes to figure out that the Bush administration is going to fuck it up. I am withdrawing my support for this program at least two minutes ago.

Posted by: Another Bruce at January 10, 2004 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

More lunacy, as many of you realize.

Now if you can all realize that your own big government programs are lunacy.

But, here is a lunatic program, which I would recommend if you folks really want more lunatic spending:

Build orbiting telescopes with mirrors at 30 meters in diameter and focal points nearly 1 km out.

Do this, and you will be able to resolve far away planets the size of earth and using spectral analysis determine which ones have biosphere.

You can grind your mirrors in space.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 10, 2004 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth;
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space,
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth!

Posted by: Troy at January 11, 2004 01:42 AM | PERMALINK

I don't usually recommend online petitions. But I liked this one a lot.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 11, 2004 02:10 AM | PERMALINK

I hate that email addresses have to be in comments. Anyhow, generally I support all manned space-exploration. We have to guard against an extinction level event and the knowledge that the sun will eventually go nova and wipe our race from the cosmos. Thus we need to establish permanent self-sufficient out-system habitats to continue the race. That is the over-arcing goal of the space program - continuance of the human species. I'll support it until the day I die. But I do think Bush is dumb to scrap all other space stuff to subordinate it to this.

Posted by: SSJPabs at January 11, 2004 05:59 AM | PERMALINK

"Sadly, given Bush's track record, mind bogglingly stupid and shortsighted is probably the way to bet."
Kevin, it has been given to you to distil this administratin into one sentence. May it be recorded for posterity.

Posted by: John Isbell at January 11, 2004 06:05 AM | PERMALINK

But another administration official cautioned that the proposal could be broad and open-ended, more in the nature of "a mission statement" rather than a detailed road map and schedule.

Thinking back on my (short lived) experience in corporate doings I can't help but recall that "a mission statement" was generally shorthand for an exercise to distract from the fact that the company was being badly mismanaged and well on its way to hell in a hand basket.

Posted by: digital amish at January 11, 2004 08:59 AM | PERMALINK

When it's out in the open, it's not a conspiracy.

The intent of this proposal is to stop global warming science. No one expects a Mars or Moon project to go anywhere.

Like the prescription drugs, it's a mafia bust-out. Feed as much tax money as possible to the Republican-donating companies before the crash hits. Meanwhile, make sure to stop anything that has the potential to say what you're doing is wrong.

Posted by: eyelessgame at January 11, 2004 09:53 AM | PERMALINK

Sad to say, Kevin's post is probably the most succinct and on-the-money comment that can be made on this Bush proposal.

As for anything happening, well, just look at Star Wars. $60 billion spent and all we have is a prolonged delay in any serious effort at peace.

What will be interesting will be if the Bushies can buy-steal the next election. In that case the U.S will be like the guy in Mason County who was running from the police and was actually doing pretty good, until he turned onto a road that, as it happened, led to a boat-launching ramp....

Posted by: serial catowner at January 11, 2004 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

My father is a retired NASA engineer (worked on ranging systems for the Deep Space Network), and I have a life-long enthusiasm for space. Here, as in so many other things, the Hippocratic oath provides a good guideline: "First, do no harm." Cutting off unproductive programs is smart. Continuing productive ones is smart. Maximizing the opportunities for those who'd like to do their own development and are prepared to spend their own money on it is smart. But the president's proposal sounds to me like it would reward precisely the parts of NASA most in need of drastic renovation and punish the parts of NASA doing their job well and the private enterprise folks making real strides in recent years.

I don't trust the president or his advisors to prepare and execute a competent, honest plan. So precisely because I love space and want to see us do more in the rest of the universe, I'm against this proposal.

Posted by: Bruce Baugh at January 11, 2004 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Mark Kleiman asked why libertarian space buffs tend to support big-time manned spaceflight spending; I'm not a libertarian space buff, but it's worth mentioning that at least some of them don't. Rand Simberg of Transterrestrial Musings has come out solidly against the proposal.

They tend to think that manned spaceflight is, by and large, properly a job for the private sector; because if the scientific justification is hollow (as it seems to be), and there's no Cold War national prestige angle to push (I suppose there's a feeble one here, but, really), then the best reason for people to go into space is that they want to go; and, if so, their ability to go ought to depend on their willingness to pay for it, as titanically expensive as that may be.

I can sympathize with that argument, though I tend to be more skeptical than most of them about the ease of getting the cost down below the price range of a Dennis Tito.

Posted by: Matt McIrvin at January 11, 2004 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

I don't trust Bush and his minions, and I don't trust that they'll do this right, but I also strongly support manned spaceflight.

If for no other reason, manned spaceflight gives us some fairly decent spinoff technology. Little things like kidney dialysis machines.

Posted by: lazarus at January 11, 2004 01:31 PM | PERMALINK

If for no other reason, manned spaceflight gives us some fairly decent spinoff technology. Little things like kidney dialysis machines.

Stupid argument. Any multi-billion dollar high-tech enterprise will produce spin-offs. Bringing rocks (rocks!) back from a far-away place is not high on my list of useful technological endeavors.

Posted by: Troy at January 11, 2004 04:50 PM | PERMALINK

the sun will eventually go nova and wipe our race from the cosmos

yeah, during the term of the 2,000,000,044th president of the US.

What a stupid argument for spending hundreds of billions of dollars in the immediate future.

Posted by: Troy at January 11, 2004 04:53 PM | PERMALINK

Is Lloyd Bentsen still alive? Maybe he could smack this silliness down (well, hopefully he'd have better luck than he did with Quayle):

"Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." - to Dan Quayle at the 1988 Vice Presidential Debate

Posted by: blinking deer at January 11, 2004 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

Dan Quayle -- the man that cost Bush Sr a 2nd term.

Posted by: Troy at January 12, 2004 06:30 AM | PERMALINK

Any high tech rocket programme, yes, but only manned space flight actually advances the medical side of things. So it's not quite that stupid.

A brief list of just some of the medical advances that came out of manned spaceflight:
http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html#health

Some of them include arteriosclerosis detection, ultrasound scanners, automatic insulin pump, portable x-ray device, invisible braces, dental arch wire, palate surgery technology, clean room apparel, implantable heart aid, MRI, bone analyzer, and cataract surgery tools.

Nothing big, though.

Posted by: lazarus at January 12, 2004 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

"Unmanned missions can do exploration beyond earth orbit better than manned missions."

Flat out false. If it were a human lander in Gustev Crater we'd have several rocks being analyzed in the spaceship and have scouted out the terrain around the craft (at a minimum). Over the course of 90 days, we'd be able to analyze the geology of the crater in great detail.

Spirit cannot do this.

Posted by: Blue at January 12, 2004 04:29 PM | PERMALINK

from troy-
"you haven't met many true libertarians, i see."

nope. sure haven't. not even one actually.

Posted by: Olafm glad and big at January 12, 2004 05:35 PM | PERMALINK

Blue: compare costs.

Given half the budget of a manned mission to Mars, I could fucking plaster Mars with rovers so dense you'd need a HOV lane for traffic control.

Posted by: Troy at January 12, 2004 07:49 PM | PERMALINK

Why does this have to be about politics. You're so quick to attack Bush and Republicans, but the Democrats have been proposing the exact same thing.

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c108:1:./temp/~c108Gv6W1t::

Look past the politics and try to see that the space program is a money pit that needs direction.

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