McCain, Obama, and Clinton on NASA

Contributed by
Apr 24, 2008
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At the Popular Mechanics websites, Rand Simberg has written an unusually lucid and clear opinion piece on how the three Presidential candidates see NASA. Lucid and clear compared to lots of other things I'm reading, that is.

The bottom line: things don't look so good for the human spaceflight part of the space agency. None of the candidates looks like they support the current Moon and Mars goals, and McCain looks like he'll freeze NASA's budget. It's not clear if Clinton and Obama will cut spending either; neither actually says they will cut the budget as McCain did.

Let me be very clear here: NASA may need reorganizing, and it may need to rethink the humans-on-Mars idea since that is a huge expenditure with no clear goal and no real mission plan. The Moon is somewhat better defined, but only somewhat. Still, cutting NASA's budget is stupid. Yes, I said stupid. It gets 0.7% of the national budget, which is a pittance, while we churn through 12 megabucks per hour in Iraq... but McCain wants us to stay in Irag for the next 100 years.

Stupid.

Obama said earlier this year he wanted to cut NASA's budget and move that money to education. The Department of Education's budget for fiscal year 2009 is about $65 billion. NASA's FY09 budget is $18 billion, less than a third that of the DoE.

Stupid.

Even stupider, since NASA already funds education; that was what I worked on for six years at Sonoma State University. The level of internal NASA funding for education was small (just 1 or 2% of a mission's cost) but we did some effective work. Cutting NASA for the DoE is just plain dumb, and I'm glad Obama backed off that rhetoric.

If I worked at NASA right now, I'd be updating my resume. Unless someone can grab these candidates -- hopefully before they take office and it's too late -- and tell them just how important spaceflight is. They just don't seem to get it.