Monday, February 15, 2010

No Moon

For as long as I've been reading about the history of NASA, it's fascinated me that there seems to be little correlation between a person's political ideology along the conservative-liberal spectrum and their feelings about publicly-funded manned spaceflight. This "publicly-funded" piece is key, by the way, as some people think that spaceflight is great as long as their taxes don't go to support it. One blog commenter I came across recently called Constellation "the socialized moon project" to differentiate it, I suppose, from a capitalist moon project. (Note to venture capitalists: moon travel is probably not a great investment).

So it's been interesting to watch, in the past couple of weeks, the space enthusiasts of the internet try to express their feelings over Obama's decision to ax the moon project in political terms. A lot of the people most upset about this decision, understandably, are NASA employees, who tend to skew (for multivalent reasons) conservative. Well, you can imagine: Obama plus cutting Constellation equals full-on Glenn Beck style rage. But as much emotional sense as it might make to rage against the guy who just axed your job and everything you've ever worked on, raging against Obama as a liberal doesn't hold much water. Not only because conservatives are supposed to like privatizing things, but also because this entire thing-- the whole send a man to the moon and bring him back safely before the decade is out thing-- was introduced by Kennedy, generally not embraced as a role model by conservatives.

A couple of people have asked whether I was sad about this decision, and I have to admit that I'm not. First of all, we have to acknowledge that part of this decision involve increasing NASA's budget quite a bit, a detail that often gets set aside in the Obama Bashing. Also because I never believed we would really be going to the moon any time soon in the first place. What Bush created when he called for Constellation was what politicians call an "unfunded mandate." He took credit for the idea and the excitement and left the money for future presidents to beg. Obama calculated that he can't spend the political capital to make Constellation happen, and he's right.

It cheered me slightly to see that Buzz Aldrin feels the same way I do (thanks @Irving Flashman for bringing this to my attention), and it cheers me all the more because I happen to know that Buzz watches a lot of Fox News and doesn't think much of Obama. That he would call this Obama's "JFK moment" means a lot, especially from someone who cares so deeply about getting to Mars.

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