The Volgi was kind enough to forward on a fascinating comparison between the MSMs reaction to President Bushs entreaty to go to Mars and their reaction to President Obamas identical plea.
Remember it? Basically, Bush wants to go to Mars; what an idiot! Obama wants to go to Mars; what a visionary genius! In many respects, the link will show you, the speeches, timelines, goals, and funding promises are almost exactly identical between the two; however, the media decided Obamas version is totally without condemnation because they like him.
But is Obama right? The Czar thinks not. And he thought the same of Bush.
Frankly, Obama is being too kind to NASA.
A lot of conservative folks who really ought to know better would like to see NASA tied to a tree and killed. How can we justify spending all those billions of dollars on a space program when there are so many programs in dire need of funding here on earth? The reality is that NASA funding is very lowin fact, it is under $18 billion a year. By comparison, the Office of Personnel Management spends that much in two months on life insurance benefits to federal employees. Compared to the excitement of a new Hubble image, a space probe getting surface pictures of a new world, or peering into the black hole at the center of our galaxyand millions of people care about this stuff even if you dontNASA is a drop in the bucket that provides some of the best bang for the buck in government history.
NASA is dirt cheap.
Also, by contrast, a lot of conservative folks think we need to get to the Moon and Mars before the Russkies do, and before the Chinese open up inexpensive souvenir stands there. This is also a load of crap. Both the Russians and Chinese are ridiculously unprepared for deep space exploration. The Moon aint close folks, and Mars is millions of miles away. There is no space race to these places: we already won.
But NASA is a major employer in the South and JPL is a big employer in California, so there is a lot of pressure to keep NASA well-funded and rockets launching. But there are things NASA does well, and things NASA does badly.
On the good side, NASA is astonishingly good at pure research and planetary exploration. One probe or Mars rover can re-write the textbooks in a single week. NASA can get an orbital camera traveling thousands of miles per second to take a snapshot of a rock on an alien world with near total reliability. Again and again, NASA proves it has mastered this. Anthropometric studies have redesigned everything from the chair you sit on to the amount of torque it takes to turn a door knob on your house. These are awesome things that produce tangible and esthetic value.
On the bad side…well, NASA is pretty lousy at getting humans up into space. They seem to find the most expensive and dangerous ways to do it, using half-century-old tools and fuels. And NASA is incredibly bad at understanding how much things cost. Seriously, if NASA ran a consumer affairs website, they would assure you that a Cadillac Escalade costs about $5,000 and can be built in eight minutes. Project after project winds up millions of dollars over budget and months or even years behind schedule. Only NASA could lose money on a space shuttle, which reuses 99% of its own hardware on each flight. These guys are clueless about time, money, and most tragically, safety. After every disaster or close call, there is an independent report that reveals a fundamental incompetence and culture of ambivalence about safety. Yet, we spend millions on this stuff.
So the Czar says NASA could use a lot more money than it gets. But we are far, far, far from being serious about manned space travel, and we do ourselves a massive injustice with outlandish fanatasies about Moon bases, Mars missions, and more. Let us spend the money on robotic probes and monster space telescopesand see a real return.
And as we have said before, if the President wants private industry to take over space exploration, fine! Just get the foxtrot of the way when they want to mine asteroids, use nuclear fuels, and strip-mine the moon.
But that day will never come, either: the President will expect private industry to do the work of NASA as a total profit loss while sandbagged by millions of regulations and restrictions, and private industry will tell him to take a flying leap. And the truth will come out that President Obama is every bit as insincere and uninformed about NASA as Carter and Clinton were.
Yeah, hes a visionary all right.