From the time I was a child, few things held my interest more than rockets and space flight. My family took me on tours of NASA, and I collected all the brochures. Even, now I have a box of newspaper clippings from the first space shuttle launch in 1981, and on my office wall is the op-ed page from the Houston Chronicle in 2003, where Buzz Aldrin and I shared our thoughts on the Columbia accident. Now, after so many years of school and work, it pains me to see what is happening to the agency that once took Americans to the moon. When Barack Obama’s hand-picked head of NASA says that his foremost duty is for better relations with the Muslim world, then something is seriously wrong. Build rockets. Explore the heavens. And leave the Obama politics where it belongs!
“When I became the NASA administrator — or before I became the NASA administrator — he charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science … and math and engineering,” Bolden said in the interview.
Ok, let’s look at these points. First, of all what is the point of inspiring children to want to “get into” science and math if the end result is working at an organization as messed up as NASA is. When I was a kid, I was steered toward math and science, and I was excited about it because Americans had landed on the moon and now there was this cool, new space shuttle heading into orbit. My mind wandered at the possibilities… imaginiing all the places we’d explore over the next 30 years. Ha! What a bad joke.
Next we have the comments about international relationships. It’s all well and good to build partnerships, but America could have a million partners, and it won’t matter at all if there is not a clear vision. We can’t accomplish anything unless we have targets to shoot for.
And, of course, we have Bolden’s comment that his “foremost” task is to “reach out to the Muslim world.” Whatever! NASA is about aerodynamic research, space exploration, science, and technology. It is about the people I went to school with who have devoted their entire careers to be part of the generation that does the “next big thing” after putting Americans on the moon. And now, the NASA administrator’s top job is building Muslim relations?
Simply put, Bolden should be fired, and Obama should appoint someone who knows what’s going on. Of course, that would mean Obama would need to know what’s going on as well, and clearly he doesn’t. The once mighty NASA is crippled and weak and has no vision. The only thing that has inspired engineers in the space program recently is the Constellation program which would ultimately return Americans to the moon and then to Mars. But, under Bolden’s watch and Obama’s direction, that program has been cancelled.
It’s so sad to see how the agency has fallen. Of course, part of that is due to the fact that even though it is focused on math and science, it is still a government bureaucracy. I have seen engineers piddle for close to 20 years on the same hardware tests without achieving any real results except to piddle some more. Tasks move at a snail’s pace, and there is no real motivation to get things done as there would be in a private corporation. However, there are still good, smart, talented people there who want to move the space program ahead.
NASA is not about “feeling good about past achievements.” NASA is about exploring the stars. That’s how children become inspired… by results, not rhetoric.
UPDATE: It looks like this story continues to get attention. Not surprising considering how outrageous it is. The man whom Bolden replaced, Michael Griffin, spoke out today on how misguided Obama’s policies are. Check out the story on FoxNews.com
Griffin said Tuesday that collaboration with other countries, including Muslim nations, is welcome and should be encouraged — but that it would be a mistake to prioritize that over NASA’s “fundamental mission” of space exploration.
“If by doing great things, people are inspired, well then that’s wonderful,” Griffin said. “If you get it in the wrong order … it becomes an empty shell.”
Great stuff from Griffin!