NASA has spent the last 40 years doing what it was told to do – build and operate the space shuttle and (albeit much more slowly and at much greater cost than expected) build a space station – while waiting for the signal to advance beyond low Earth orbit once more. The starting gun has fired twice: in 1989 and in 2004. Unfortunately, the occupants of the Oval Office in each of those cases did not follow through with requisite funding and political muscle to ensure those efforts bore fruit. Today we are still in low Earth orbit.
In the last 40 years NASA has done mostly what it has wanted. The shuttle was NASA’s idea as was the International Space Station. The major things the President asked for without being lobbied by NASA were to send Dr. Harrison Schmitt to the Moon, because of pressure from the science community, and the two Bush calls to go to the Moon, opportunities which NASA squandered.
Alternatively, if President Obama does not care enough about the space program to adequately fund it, let’s find that out now.
Assume that President Obama doesn’t care as much about NASA as we would like. When there was a talk of a missile gap, NASA was important to show our technical prowess in a non-threatening way. NASA hasn’t been important to the President since. Presidents want NASA to demonstrate America’s technological leadership and not kill any one, that seems to be about it.
It is time for NASA to mature and take responsibility for its self and its accomplishments, and do so within the percent of the GNP NASA has been receiving for the last several decades. Don’t expect to see Apollo level funding again. Don’t expect a President with 2 wars going on, a third one possibly on the horizon, the worst economic crisis in the last 80 years, and a health care crisis to worry about NASA.
Barack Obama put NASA in the able hands of Charlie Bolden and Lori Garver. President Obama looking forward to making speeches about the wonderful things NASA is accomplishing during under the leadership of Bolden and Garver.