McCain, Obama, and Clinton on NASA

By Phil Plait | April 24, 2008 2:00 pm

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.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA, Politics, Space

Comments (67)

  1. Celtic_Evolution

    I’m all for increasing the education budget, but in the category of stupid questions, here’s one for Mr. Obama: Why does the NASA budget need to be cut in order to increase the education budget? I can’t believe it’s a “one or the other” thing. Maybe I’m not seeing this right, but in my mind, as BA pointed out, NASA and education go hand in hand to a large degree.

    This makes no sense.

    Ugh, can we really not find any brighter watt bulbs in our political sphere than the sheep we have to choose from currently?

    I feel like I have to choose between Mo, Larry and Curley’s sister.

  2. Spiv

    <— 5 year contract. Plus, I’m useful so I’ll be here for a while anyway.

    But yeah. What sickens me is that the greater majority around here still have some delusion that McCain is the most supportive of NASA just because he’s a republican. Insanity.

  3. Peter F

    Um. I love the idea of spaceflight as much as anybody, but important? Nobody in that other thread came up with a compelling argument for spaceflight that would resonate with the average person.

    I’m saying this as a guy who just watched “For All Mankind” again yesterday and got choked up for the hundredth time hearing the archival recording of the announcement that a human being had walked on the surface of the Moon — public will and interest in the concept dwindled to almost nothing once the feat had been accomplished. Absent some dramatic change in the status quo, like a signal from an alien race or discovery of oil on Mars or something, the curtain is coming down on the concept.

    It’s not a vote-getter, anyway…

  4. Celtic_Evolution

    The political landscape that shaped NASA’a hayday has changed to the point that I’m not sure it can ever truly recover.

    Am I wrong for feeling that ultimately, it may be that furthering space travel may become the domain of the private sector? Or are the economics of a successful space program just so staggering that it could only be done by a wealthy government?

  5. Jeffersonian

    Uh, right. Let’s pretend we’re not facing massive debt and spiraling recession. I’m a proponent for solid NASA funding but the reality is your fellow Americans were told the cost of the war and they still voted it in. Now we all have to pay the price. The reality is we’re going to witness a generation of collapsing institutions. That’s just the math; the cost of the war.

  6. As long as India and China continue with their own moon programs, we won’t abandon ours.

  7. Charles

    The Chinese and Russians will be on the moon before we get back there and the Russians will land on Mars before we contemplate going. Wait and see.

    The real problem is that in the next 15-25 years existing federal entitlement programs will consume 100% of our federal budget. see: (Science Magazine, Pete Dominici: The Reality of Science Funding)

    As for “oil on Mars,” there is great hope for Helium3 Fusion and using the moon as a supplier of this terrestrially-rare material. Allowing the Chinese and the Russians to literally control the lunar surface may be very bad business from a long-term strategic standpoint. No, H3 fueled power plants are not right around the corner, but history is fraught with derelict nations who failed to plan ahead.

  8. Bryan

    I support Obama, but I’m also looking at joining NASA. I think with support no president (besides McCain… need to feed the war machine) will really lower the budget.

    Really though, we can cut from other places (like the pork) to pay for the higher education budget.

  9. Rahne

    The Department of Education needs a dire reorganization too. No Child Left Behind needs to be dropped in favor of a better plan to steer our education system to where it needs to be. Funding a bad plan from a agency that has its own problems is just dense.

  10. NoAstronomer

    And, just to put the DoE number in it’s proper perspective, the bulk of the US education system is paid for at the state and local level anyway (about 2% of my local school district’s budget comes from federal funds).

  11. Brian

    Easy solution. Start spreading the rumor that weapons of mass destruction are hidden on the Moon (or Mars) and we’ll be there in force within the year.

  12. Rahne

    To NoAstronomer: Right on the money

  13. It is for precisely this reason that I created http://www.actionforspace.com to get people in the public to stop talking as much to each other about the stupid things that the politicians will do and start talking to the politicians!!

    Call, email, and fax all three of the candidates today to let them know that they must send humans to the moon and Mars. Tell them that they must not do it at the expense of other science programs, but in concert with them. Tell them your vote depends on it!

  14. Celtic_Evolution

    @Charles

    Last I checked, the Russians tried to piggy-back onto our manned Moon program back in 2006, but we told them no in 2007. Although Russia has stated publicly that they want to go to the moon by 2025, and have a “permanent base” there by 2027, I don’t think anyone within the Russian infrastructure really believes that they have the economics to make this a reality.

    China I can see getting to the moon, but they are still a very long ways off, technologically.

  15. ThomasJeffersonJr

    Obama is threatening to cut NASA for the same reason every
    other politician always licks its chops at NASA – they know it
    looks elitist and irrelevant to the unwashed sheep and taking
    money from the Mars rovers and astronauts to claim they
    want to give it to the poor is always good press.

    It has nothing to do with logic, folks, just politics.

    So long as the public remains uneducated about space and
    its related fields, they will continue to feel separated from it,
    they will not care, and the politicians will continue to use it
    either to bolster their image or steal from its piggy bank.

    Can private industry save space as it has with SETI from the
    clutches of government? That is the big question.

    Just remember, folks – nobody of any significance in the US
    Government really gives a flying fig about space, nor are they
    educated on the subject. They just know it makes the country
    look good and can be pilferred from at the same time.

  16. Charles

    Celtic,

    The Russians have announced the development of a new heavy lift booster series called Angara. V. Putin ordered that its development be accelerated, quite the opposite of what the US appears to be doing. What this means to Energia, which was planned for use with Buran and the (hopfully defunct) Polus Battle Satellite in unknown.

    He also announced increasing the number of Russians from 3 to as many as 10 on ISS by 2010.

    Not only that, V. Putin announced 10 April that they intend to build a new launch facility on their own soil and will probably decommission Baikonaur once it is online.

    They are doing quite well financially based upon the price of oil.

    The Chinese are working with the Russians and have also done a good job of development on their own.

    Meanwhile, we have an Ares-1 program that is going backwards in ability and who knows if and when Ares-V will ever be built. The US made a MAJOR mistake IMO not pursuing upgrading Atlas for LEO, as Bigelow Aerospace and Lockheed are now doing.

  17. Russ

    The ignorant cherry picking of the “McCain wants us to stay in Irag for the next 100 years.” comment.

    Stupid.

    Iraq is a much better place to have a long term military base than say, germany. Not only location, location, location, but great environment for training, and great to be working so closely with a middle eastern military force. We’d be stupid to turn down such an opportunity. You want to talk about change. Talk about Iraq.

  18. Charles

    correction for above: “The US made a MAJOR mistake IMO not pursuing upgrading Atlas-V for manned LEO, as Bigelow Aerospace and Lockheed are now doing. We could have concentrated on de-mothballing the plans for Nova and upgrading it and put any reasonable heavy payload into terrestrial orbit, TLI or MLI.”

  19. Beelzebud

    BA, I sent you an email about this on the day you left for Europe, so I’m sure you missed it, but your post today is relevant to what I wrote you about.

    Check out who the Libertarian Party has invited to their national convention to give a talk entitled “Do We Need NASA?”. This is from their official convention website.

    Check out the entry for Friday, at 6:30 PM, and tell me who you see.

    http://www.denverlpcon.com/schedule.html

    Richard Hoagland.

    He’s even promoting it on his insipid website. So not only is the libertarian party anti-NASA, but apparently they’re also proud to be Pro-Woo.

  20. Dave D

    BA–

    You are wrong. McCain does not want to stay in Iraq for 100 years. You are misquoting what he said. I used to expect more from you. Sad.

  21. Chapio

    It’s sad to say that the general public of America doesn’t really give a (enter swear word here) about space or NASA anymore. What they really care about is American Idol or what Britney Spears had for lunch today. It’s sad but true.

    Think about it! More people vote for the next American Idol than who is going to run the most powerful country in the world…and that’s of course excluding everyone that is less than 18 years of age! Can someone correct me if I’m wrong?

  22. Celtic_Evolution

    Yeah, BA! How dare you say that McCain wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years! He’d never live that long, and even if he did, he can only be president for 2 terms! Sheesh… how stupid of you…

    Oh wait… or were you, perhaps, exaggerating for effect? ;)

    Damn my literalist brain!

  23. Celtic_Evolution

    @Chapio

    You’re point is valid, but your numbers aren’t quite right… at least not YET.

    in 2004, 122 Million Americans voted in the Presidential Elections. IIRC, the highest American Idol voter turnout for a single show was 70 Million, but there was wide speculation that that number may have been due to some “war-dialing”.

    Give it time, though… i’m sure Idol will catch up and eventually surpass… (rolls eyes).

  24. Chapio

    @Celtic_Evolution

    Thanks! I agree with you though…Idol will probably catch up.

  25. Dave D

    CE–

    BA is repeating a statement that McCain made last month (I think) about US troops remaining in Iraq for 100 years. You can find the full statement on the internet easily, as well as Obama’s misquoting of the same, and a variety of responses to the misquote, most of which call Obama on it. So–no he wasn’t “exaggerating for effect.”

    He was misquoting for effect.

  26. Duane

    How long has the military been in Japan? Germany? How much does that cost us?

  27. Beelzebud

    Hey Duane when was the last time someone from Japan or Germany took a shot at us?

    Iraq is more comparable to the Vietnam quagmire than post WW2 Europe and Japan…

  28. Will

    This really is sickening, we spend billions on wasteful programs, and funding worthless “bridge-to-nowhere” style projects. Since No Child Left Behind the DoE has become a joke.

    While I understand NCLB has accomplished some good (test scores highest they’ve been since the early ’70s), in a lot of cases it causes horrible detriment, let me give you an example.

    At my (former) high school, we had a large autistic/mental disability program, so we had about 150 students with special needs. Here is where the problem came from, the NCLB divided the schools into sectors, i.e., the “white” sector, “african-american” sector, “asian-american” sector, and the “mentally disabled” sector. In order for our school to receive funding, all sectors had to improve 10% from 2004 to 2005. Well, the white, black, and asian sectors all did improve 10+%, unfortunately the disabled sector’s test scores did not improve (for reasons I would say are largely out of either the students or teachers hands).

    So, what happened? Of course, we did not get the funding, taking money away from the schools that need it most.
    To “punish” schools which actually TRY TO HELP the disabled is at best misguided, and at worst backward and discriminatory.

    Just my 2 cents.

  29. Will

    Sorry, I didn’t mean for that to turn into a rant, but my point is, why do we need MORE money for a broken system? It’s wrong to cut it from the one entity that is ALWAYS taking cuts (NASA), and the one entity that has done the most and worked the hardest to advance Human Knowledge and technology.

  30. dave

    The U.S. spends a heck of a lot more on “black projects” than it does on NASA, and we’re not even allowed to ask 1) what we’re getting for our tax dollars, 2) exactly how much is being spent, and 3) who’s actually in charge of spending it. Is this a democracy or some secret government at work? Who’s running things?

    Mars would be much cheaper if they’d unlock all the secret antigrav stuff at area 51 that we’ve already paid for ;)

  31. Chris

    I am somewhat disappointed by Obama’s platform on science in general. He’s the candidate who could get it and actually do something useful. What he needs is a science adviser. Phil? PZ? Both?

    From a financial perspective manned spaceflight doesn’t give us the return on investment that unmanned spaceflight does. What return has the International Space Station given us? What returns have Hubble, Cassini, Spitzer, Odyssey, Spirit & Opportunity, and Messenger given us? From a psychological perspective I think having a human presence in space is important, but there needs to be a goal besides circling the Earth at 17,000 miles per hour. Until funding is increased overall I have to choose the unmanned.

    Note–Contrary to McCain’s statement, we won’t be in Iraq for a 100 years. There isn’t a 100 years worth of oil there.

  32. Kullat Nunu

    Iraq is a much better place to have a long term military base than say, germany. Not only location, location, location, but great environment for training, and great to be working so closely with a middle eastern military force. We’d be stupid to turn down such an opportunity. You want to talk about change. Talk about Iraq.

    Vast majority of Iraqis want all foreigners out right now. But of course, nobody’s asking them.

    According to Wikipedia, the US military budget in 2007 was $439.3 billion (not counting the wars plus veterans, add about $100 billion; that’s not all, of course but still more than $0.5 trillion/year) from a total of $2.90 trillion. The budget has mushroomed insanely in the recent years, and all of the three candidates have pledged to increase it! Against what threat, may I ask? Against a small gang of losers armed with box cutters?

    Recent estimates by a Nobel laureate indicate that the Iraq war will cost more than 3 trillion dollars in total over the years. That is $10,000 for each American. $40,000 for a family of four. It may turn out even costlier. Imagine what space missions or things that really benefit everyone of you you could do with that amount of money.

    Parallels with another superpower, now defunct, are striking although the situation is not comparable. However, reckless military spending (and a botched war in Afghanistan!) played a major role in its demise.

    I hope the next president, whoever he or she may be, will have a major bout of sanity when in office.

  33. Dave D, McCain said very clearly he wants to stay in Iraq for 100, saying “It would be fine with me”. He means to continue this occupation forever, but he likens it to South Korea and Germany, which is ludicrous. We invaded them, for no reason at all. Well, for a lie, if that’s a reason.

    So don’t say he didn’t say it. He sure did, and his reasoning is specious.

  34. speaker

    According to Wikipedia, the US military budget in 2007 was $439.3 billion…

    A more meaningful number would be the increase in the budget from peace-time to now. Quoting the military budget as a number reflecting the war in Iraq is a bit of a distortion. A distortion you may not have intended but the number doesn’t reflect what the war is costing. Should we pull out of Iraq tomorrow, there will and should be expenditures for the US military. I won’t quibble about the 3 trillion dollar estimate. It may be quite accurate. It would be interesting to check those numbers as well.

  35. Dave D

    BA–

    Wait–did we invade South Korea? And you know–those Germans weren’t hurting me . . .

    Your grasp of astronomy far outstrips your grasp of international politics. And if you listen to the whole quote, it is obvious that he is not planning to wage a war for 100 years, which is what you and a lot of other people are implying. A military presence in that part of the world is not a bad thing, just as it has not been in Korea, or Japan, or Germany.

    Again, politics tends to somehow limit your ability to reason.

  36. bigjohn756

    I just want to cry. Here we are the world’s most powerful nation without a single serious, viable candidate for President. None of them cares a whit about this country. The only interest any of them has is advancing his own personal agenda and trying to accumulate as much power as possible. Winning is the only goal. Common sense goes by the wayside when all a candidate cares about is himself. What is left for us is to survive the next regime and try to minimize the damage while working strenuously to find someone with a real brain to lead the country after the next idiot we elect is finished. G. W. Bush is an idiot. By all indications, our next President will be an idiot, too. Our Constitution has been bludgeoned by Bush and this beating will continue by whomever we elect next. Lately, I have been regretting my approaching 70th birthday a little The present situation makes me glad I am as old as I am because I probably will not be around to witness the total demise of my proud country under the witless guidance of anti-science, non-thinking, religious zealots kowtowing to an ignorant public.

  37. GuyMac

    Nothing like a post about politics to piss people off! Here’s my take: the VSE was not unfocused, it is just focused on a dead-end destination: the Moon. Check out Robert Farquar’s article in the latest Planetary Report for a serious alternative that proposes building blocks to wherever we want to go in the solar system. A crew transport vehicle to the Earth-Sun L2 to service current and future observatories, and serve as a jumping-off point to near-Earth asteroids and interplanetary transfer orbits.

  38. Brooklyn Bill

    Sigh! There is nothing new here. NASA has been a rudderless ship since Apollo 17 (1972).

    Whatever happened to “Failure is not an option!”

  39. Chip

    Our politicians will change their tune, when China goes over and lands on the Moon. ;)

  40. Wow, Dave D, you are piling error upon error here.

    The very point is that we didn’t invade South Korea or Germany. That’s why the analogy is ludicrous. We didn’t occupy those countries; we’re currently occupying Iraq. We eventually let those countries rule themselves, and it’s clear Iraq will never rule itself until we get out… and even then it’s unlikely until after a bloody civil war. How many “emergency expenditures” of hundreds of billions of dollars will that cost every few months?

    And don’t confuse what I imply with what you infer. I never said he wants to continue the war for 100 years. But an occupation will cost almost as dearly. Maybe more so. And he said he’s fine with the occupation as long as Americans don’t get hurt. How is that supposed to happen, exactly? How many need to be killed for no reason first?

    So please stop insulting me. I don’t like it when commenters insult commenters, and I’m willing to take more since it’s my blog, but you’re treading the line.

  41. Ktesibios

    If you really want a workable motivation for our Glorious Leaders to fund a serious space program, you need to find a way to tie it to humanity’s one true quest. By which I mean the only thing our species has consistently been truly diligent in seeking: a better mechanical contrivance with which to murder our neighbor.

    Let spaceflight offer the practical possibility of being able to wipe out an entire population or a means by which one sub-group of macroparasites can lord it over all others and the tax money will flow like water.

  42. Troy

    This is very sad in that dissing NASA actually is used during the courtship phase of the presidency. I’d think that the enthusiasm of those who support NASA projects would more than make up for the apathetic majority, why would any politician worth their salt risk offending us enthusiasts? The answer is a sad fact, there must not be too many of ‘us’ left.

  43. jasonB

    Yes it was all based upon a heap of lies! And there must have been a whole pack of ‘em lying. Please follow link.

    http://www.freedomagenda.com/iraq/wmd_quotes.html

    So either it was a lot of dupes, liars, or a bunch of people guilty of gross dereliction of their constitutional duty. Please feel free to pick one.

    As the Federal/State/Local governments have shown for the most part that they can squander almost any amount of money they are entrusted with, the question I have is why anyone would vote for any candidate that doesn’t specifically state that they would cut SOMETHING.

    jasonB

  44. Ginger Yellow

    Cutting NASA’s budget is bad, but Yglesias posted some Clinton and Obama comments about space exploration a few months back and Obama clearly had the better grasp on the relative importance of manned vs unmanned space flight and the scientific value of the space programme.

  45. jasonB, honestly: why pick only one? Sounds like all of the above to me.

  46. bharat

    nothing wrong with updating your resumes. the market shows much more demand for spaceflight than the govt will ever show interest in.

  47. Ian

    “but McCain wants us to stay in Irag for the next 100 years.”

    Sigh.

    Hint: We’ve been in Germany and Japan for over 60. Context. Look it up. Does you no good to look like a shill for a political party.

    As to NASAs budget: go big or go home. If we can’t do it right and awesome then why bother? Constellation is just another spam in a can program. Is that the best we can do in the 21st century?

    When I saw the first tests of the Delta Clipper I thought things were finally getting going in the right direction. Meh. Constellation is a joke.

  48. Ade

    You guys need to elect Martin Sheen as president. He was on UK TV last night and was hilariously funny! He seems a more credible candidate than the ones you’ve currently got running. Or, maybe we could swap you for Gordon Brown, as he’s turning out to be a right useless twat.

  49. Murff

    Even stupider. LoL

  50. Grand Lunar

    This one was a howler for me:

    “… McCain will determine that taxpayers haven’t been receiving that “maximum return.”

    Exactly what has the return been for the Iraq war? Thousands dead? A country being invaded on a false premise?

    The moon mission will give more potential return than our occupation of Iraq.

    Doubtful that McCain will realize this, but I do hope that Obama and Clinton can see that it is the Iraq campaign that is the real drain.
    Get out of Iraq, and we can free up some cash for both education and NASA, and still have some leftover to recover from our deficit.

    That’s how I see it.

  51. negentropyeater

    Americans never stop surprising me. This whole process of the presidential election which takes more than a year, where one dissects hundreds and hundreds of declarations, generally out of context, which, in any case, history shows, will never be followed in actual case, is so counter productive. BTW, it didn’t stop you from selecting the worst man for the job twice in a row.
    People seem to completely forget the big picture :
    1. the next president will be one of 3, (soon one of 2)
    2. the next president has a party behind, a team, its not a one man job
    3. there is never an optimum, but between those 2, you have to pick one, and by not doing so, you are increasing the chance that the worst might get the job.

    For me, it is quite obvious that Obama or Clinton are going to be better for America than McCain. The rest are details.
    Don’t get drowned in them. Then you’ll get McCain.

  52. Kirk

    Let’s see: $3B USD per week for Iraq (~ $300K per minute) versus negative numbers for NASA. OK — let’s dump the manned travel to Mars (after we send “W”). Can we just SHIFT the $3B USD per week from Iraq to science/space/Pell Grants to students????

  53. Quiet Desperation

    here’s one for Mr. Obama

    I have one, too.

    After centuries of seeing how governments clusterfrak everything up when they get too much power, why do you still support a “big government” approach to things?

    Actually, that’s one for every candidate, these days, Dems *and* Reps.

    Do you really think you are somehow going to wave a magic wand and make the 87 trillion bureaucrats suddenly start doing a great job?

    I’m not an ideologue. I strive for independence, but I will *never* understand the “throw more money at it” approach. Isn’t one definition of mental illness the act of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

  54. Nick

    I’ve always wondered why NASA doesn’t raise money with sponsorship. I figure every time a shuttle launches the puppy ought to look like a NASCAR vehicle. Same for the astronauts and their suits. Sell shuttle naming rights! Screw the shuttle Discovery, call it the Sony Shuttle.

    Continue on with the ISS. The Harmony module? Come on, the Bank of Weedlick module or what have you will work just the same. The buildings, the launch pad, each flight could be sponsored. Mission control for crying out loud! I love the space program, have ever since I can remember, but why pass up money raising opportunities?

    The Russian’s augment their program selling seats, surely we can beat them at the game of capitalism!

  55. BMcP

    Well there is no surprise that NASA’s budget is being looked at for cuts. NASA isn’t something that is foremost in people’s minds, most of the time people here about the same old space shuttle runs, and various new satellites and probes. This is vastly different from the Fifties and Sixties when space travel seemed new and exciting, plus politics back then dealing with the Cold War essentially mandated that significant money be spent on the space program.

    Today the reality is that the federal budget is far too large and bloated, tens if not hundreds of billions should be cut. Unfortunately many (if not all) of the wasteful departments and expenditures are either political popular or protected by special interest no matter how little practical good they do. NASA on the other hand is an easy target, most people are ignorant of the budget or don’t care about NASA at all, outside of scientists, and us space enthusiasts, who alas, have little political clout. So cutting it’s budget is no big deal and will cause little outcry and sadly, a few cheers.

    It is to the private sector the future of space must look, they will be far more efficient and have more realistic goals anyway.

  56. Touchy Republicans = Hilarity ^_^

  57. John Phillips, FCD

    Celtic_Evolution: Actually, the Russians might be better placed financially than the US is nowadays, if only because of their gas and oil reserves. These fuelling most of Europe and which the Russians have or are in the process of nationalising or at least forcing foreign companies to hand over their shares in Russian companies, often through trumped up criminal or civil charges. We also shouldn’t forget their other vast reserves of other materials which up to know have been largely untouched. When you consider that Russia now is only a democracy in name only, and yes you can make the same argument for other Western countries, but no other Western country has such a grip on power as Putin and his clique now has, not even the US. In many ways, Russia is on the way back to a totalitarian state, with Putin the de facto dictator, OK, the last is a bit of an exaggeration, but not that much if you really look at what is happening and mostly with the support of the average Russian. Mainly because many hanker after the days when they were still one of the two super powers and had respect, if only through fear.

  58. kebsis

    I think the reality is that the public in general thinks that NASA is a waste of money and it’s an easy way for canditates to score points, saying they’ll take money from NASA and send it to this place or that.

    They can’t say, for instance, that the department of education is overfunded and should learn to spend their money more efficiently cause, you know, think of the children.

  59. NB

    The Bad Astronomer on 24 Apr 2008 at 5:50 pm said:

    | Wow, Dave D, you are piling error upon error here.
    |
    | The very point is that we didn’t invade South Korea or Germany.
    | That’s why the analogy is ludicrous. We didn’t occupy those
    | countries;

    WOW…for someone so smart, Phil, you sure are lacking in the history department. Dave D’s comments were quite accurate. As John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things”. I find your assertions simply unreasonable, which coming from one who is assumably a logical person makes me go “Huh??”.

    I’m guessing you slept though the all the WWII lectures? The U.S. certainly did invade Germany. Along with a coalition of what was commonly referred to as “The Allies”. Chiefly among them was “The Big Three”; the British Empire, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the United States of America.

    At the end of WWII, Germany was partitioned into four occupation zones, coordinated by the Allied Control Council. The American, British, and French zones joined in 1949 as the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Soviet zone became the German Democratic Republic. Nearby, Austria was separated from Germany and divided into four zones of occupation, which reunited in 1955 to become the Republic of Austria.

    While today the U.S. may not “occupy” Germany, they still maintain several military bases there, which, if you read the entire statement, is what John McCain was referencing… and was Dave D’s original point of view.

    The U.S. did not originally “invade” Korea, in the traditional military sense, but they certainly did occupy South Korea. Korea had been a unified country since the 7th century. But at the close of World War II, forces of both the Soviet Union and the United States occupied the Korean peninsula in accordance with an agreement put forth by the United States government. The Soviet forces entered the Korean peninsula on August 10, 1945, followed a few weeks later by the American forces who entered through Incheon.

  60. KMR

    Kebsis sez “I think the reality is that the public in general thinks that NASA is a waste of money…”. Actually, lots and lots of people who you might think are big supporters of NASA – i.e., aerospace engineers – think that NASA is a waste of money too (I resemble that remark, and personally know many more who do as well). Taking humans back to the Moon and Mars with chemical rockets is tres dumb. Building a six-person capsule is tres dumb. We could have a much smaller, incremental program that actually built a sustainable, modular, achievable manned space program instead of one that takes ten years to deliver a behemoth that we don’t need. A smaller, more realistic approach would leave more money for robot probes too. And what about the first “A” in NASA – AERONAUTICS? Wind tunnels are closing around the country; our lead in basic flight research is evaporating or gone; I could go on and on. Look behind the NASA public image and you’ll find a bloated bureacracy and an agency that is all about protecting its own rice bowl.

  61. Hugo

    I read the headline and thought, “Why would Osama Bin Laden and Bill Clinton have an opinion on NASA…?”

    Man, I’ve got to stop living in the past. And watching CNN.

  62. StevoR

    What the US needs – in my humble opinion naturally – is a change in the party governing it. Yesterday. ..if that’s not already too late. :-(

    The candidates space visions are a very small part of what’sneeded but not an unimportant part.

    EWitherBrack Obama or Hiliary Clinton would be fine -anyDemocratic party cnadidate would be better..

    McCain the incontinent ancient war-monger would be another disaster.

    That’s seems pretty clear to all sane people.

    As does the fact that the US needs to get the blazes out of Iraq and the SouthWest Asian region generally and stop supporting Israel’s provocative Occupation of Palestine. Again, this needed to have happend well .. not just yesterday but years ago.

    Surely, surely youAmercians have finally learnt from Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs, Iraq ad nauseam to leave otherpeaceful nations the heck alone!!

    Not invading and occupying countries and not supporting & funding the apartheid theocracy of Israel. That ladies & gentleman is where you need to cut your wasteful spending and redirect your money from evil to good uses.

    I’d love to see – and hope to see – the USA and NASA finally get its *ZZzing* and sense of adventure back. This does mean, at very least, returning to the Moon preferably with some immediate deadline .. Better yet a Near-Earth Asteroid manned mission or a mission to Mars perhaps together with the ESA & / or Russians plus others.

    But where’s another JFK when you need him? ;-)

    Of course there was & can be only 1 JFK but is anybody even close? At first sight not among any of the current crop although Barack Obama seems the closest thing to this overseas observer living in his client state in Australia ..

  63. StevoR

    CORRECTED VERSION :

    What the US needs – in my humble opinion naturally – is a change in the party governing it. Yesterday. ..if that’s not already too late.

    The candidates space visions are a very small part of what’s needed but _not_ an unimportant part.

    Either Barack Obama or Hiliary Clinton would be fine – any Democratic party candidate would be better than any of the Retardican Republicans who have amply demonstrated their malign, war-loving, science-hating durn-near-treasonous incompetance.

    How *any* decent American can be so stupid as to vote for McCain or Bush is one the the deep mysteries of American (lack-of) culture as far as I’m concerned.

    McCain the incontinent ancient war-monger would be another disaster. Not least fr freezing NASA and basically killingoff your space agency but for destroying further your nation – and the West and indeed the whole blinking planet!

    That much seems pretty durn clear to all sane & intelligent people.

    As does the fact that the US needs to get the blazes out of Iraq and the SouthWest Asian region (which you often and misleadingly call the Middle East) and stop supporting Israel’s provocative Occupation of Palestine.

    Again, this needed to have happened ..well .. not just yesterday but years ago. :-(

    Surely, surely you, Amercians have finally learnt from Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs, Iraq ad nauseam to leave other peaceful nations the heck alone!!

    But I fear not … & I fear either the US directly or the USA through its Israeli outpost will be at war with Iran by year’s end unless Bush Jr is removed from power by impeachment or by force before his current term ends naturally. An incident will either be provoked or manufactured & the Retardicans will use this and the “No time to change leaders in wartime” canard as their plot to retain power – I’d bet on it. You’ve heard it here first folks. That’s my clairvoyant but entirely rationally derived prediction. :-(

    A-n-y-w-ay : NOT invading and occupying other countries and not supporting & funding the apartheid theocracy of Israel.

    That ladies & gentleman is where you need to cut your wasteful spending and redirect your money from evil to good uses.

    I’d love to see – and hope to see – the USA and NASA finally get its *Zing* and sense of adventure back. This does mean, at very least, returning to the Moon preferably with some immediate deadline .. Better yet a Near-Earth Asteroid manned mission or a mission to Mars perhaps together with the ESA & / or Russians plus others. Building a Lunar colony, a proper O’Neill type space station (one of those really big wheel-in-space 2001 type things) and perhaps sending spacecraft with humans aboard to Mercury or the asteroid belt is do~able, worthwhile and inspirational – if you put the money and will and drive into the right things rather than the wrong ones. That’s where NASA needs to go & it needs to be funded properly to do so.

    But you need a president with real vision and courage to get this happening. A figure like JFK – But where’s another JFK when you need him? Of course there was & can be only 1 JFK but is anybody even close? At first sight not among any of the current crop although Barack Obama seems the closest thing to this overseas observer living in his client state in Australia ..

    But as I say, first things first – the science coimmunity, heck the whole world needs a US President who is not a war-mongering evil Retard ie. NOT from the Relig. Wrong but the liberal correct side of politics – Bracak Obama or Hiliary Clinton …

    .. Then they need to select Phil Plait as their science advisor! ;-)

  64. Mr. Beefy

    While I can’t say that I approve of Obama taking money to fund education–nothing against more money for education, but there are certainly much better places to get that money from–but his comments about NASA are pretty close to right on.

    Admittedly, less lately than has been true throughout my lifetime, but still pretty true. To be honest, I just don’t think we can leave space exploration and colonization to NASA. It is far too important to entrust to a branch of the government that has essentially failed us for 30-odd years. Don’t take its funding, but rebuild it from the ground up. Yes, what NASA has been doing is important, nobody with a brain could argue with that, but it could certainly do it in a more efficient and productive manner for far less money. Their willingness to work with privately owned companies is a big step in the right direction, but it’s going to take a lot more than that.

  65. I helped discover life on Mars.There are people who look like us and wear clothes and hats.There’s a very large diverse population of Mars animals at both rovers sites currently running.Viking missions imaged life on Mars 1976. I have pics jpl123@inbox.com The fossils are all over the ground.Knowing about Earth animals and skeletons will help you see Mars fossils better.Nasa wants to avoid a space race and has witheld the news of Mars life discovery for 32 years.That’s a lifetime for some people.

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