Heading to the Moon?

WASHINGTON – President Bush (news – web sites), envisioning “new journeys to the worlds beyond our own,” unveiled a plan Wednesday to send astronauts to the moon, Mars and beyond on missions sure to cost hundreds of billions of dollars and stretch the bounds of technology. He called for a manned lunar landing as early as 2015.

Far be it from me to critique our president, but have you ever seen such blatant political pandering in your life?

Trust me, I love the romance of space exploration. I grew up watching the moon shots. I had relatives that worked at NASA during that era and one of my proudest possessions in 1968 / 69 was a mockup of a Goddard Space Flight Center Employee Pass with my name and picture on it. My first books were about space exploration and I still have an honest interest in NASA’s latest projects.

Yet, to push forward this initiative at a time when defecits are rising and Social Security is at risk is simply irresponsible. This is especially true in light of the administration’s penchant for tax cuts. Understand that what the President if proposing is transferring moneys from scientific research to the manned program, which has great political benefit, but little scientific advantage. Most scientists will tell you that there are very few tasks right now on the Moon or Mars that can’t be done by robots, at a fraction of the cost of sending humans.

Again, I may be the most cynical human alive, but is there any way to not remember that this President has strong ties to Houston, the home of the Manned Space Flight Center? Given the way this administration has dealt with energy and the environment, it’s tough not to think of this as another pay off for a bunch of the President’s friends.

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