Wednesday, January 28, 2009
IT'S CHALLENGER ANNIVERSARY DAY
Can you believe that another January 28 is upon us?
This year I am thinking about a new era for the US government— especially with respect to one of my favorite government agencies, NASA. Our friends in the spaceflight industry have been spooked by the new President's lack of a clear position on funding for NASA, and Obama has freaked everyone out a couple of times by, for example, suggesting that the moon-to-Mars project could be pushed back five years in order to free up money for troubled public schools and asking how much would be saved by canceling the Ares 1 project altogether. The verbs are important here: he is not "announcing" or "demanding," but "suggesting" and "asking." I think Obama is testing the waters, trying to figure out whether we the people who elected him would like to see expensive space projects canceled in a show of frugality, or whether we want to see money spent that will create jobs and build pride in the nation. And this "pride in the nation" thing is not an abstract concept I'm throwing about— the United States has achieved more in spaceflight than any other country, and with VERY few resources—we are taking about half of one percent of the federal budget. And don't let the false either-or about spaceflight vs. school funding scare you, either. For instance, we could SPEND MONEY ON BOTH. We have the money to spend.
Last week, everyone I knew was fired up by an inauguration in a way that I have never seen before in my life. Even those who are completely cynical about politics and the federal government are peeking out of their irony caves to sniff the air, and scholars, they are picking up the scent of hope. Be the Change? Yes We Can? These should sound cheesy, but they don't, because they are delivered with sincerity and because those messages are badly needed right now. President Obama: now is a great time to show the world that our government respects SCIENCE once again. Now is a great time to spend money that will create and maintain jobs in many fields in many states, and now is definitely a great time to give us all something uniquely American to be proud of.
Most of the Challenger astronauts stated at one time or another that, should they die in an accident on a flight, they would want spaceflight to go on. So today, with this in mind, I'm going to use the swanky new contact tools on www.whitehouse.gov to share my views on this.