Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama and NASA

On several science-related websites, I've been seeing a lot of chatter about President-Elect Obama and the tough science-related decisions awaiting him. For example, this article from discusses the problems facing NASA, which is required to stop launching space shuttles in 2010, even though a replacement launch vehicle probably won't be available until at least 2015.

NASA has lots of problems, and this is a biggie. Many people want Obama to put his money where his mouth was, and work for extra funding for NASA, and state that this is a priority.

Frankly, while I think it is bad that America may soon be without a way to launch humans into space for 5+ years, I don't really want Obama spending a lot of time on NASA right now. We're embroiled in two wars, the economy is falling apart around us, and many people are losing their jobs by the hour. I'm sorry, but giving NASA an extra $2 billion to keep the shuttle flying isn't going to change any of that. That doesn't mean that NASA couldn't use the money, or that I think it shouldn't be done (it should!).

What that does mean, in my opinion, is that Obama shouldn't be spending much time at all worrying about NASA right now, and that we shouldn't be badgering him to do so. I'd rather Obama spends his transition period worrying about the economy and foreign policy.

Right now, arguments about competitiveness and technology don't carry much weight, and I think that the more we make a scene to try and get attention, the less attention we'll get. I think it is fine to write your Congresspeople and ask them to increase the NASA budget, perhaps as part of a stimulus plan -- after all, aerospace engineers are American workers, too! But I think it would be detrimental to harp on the issue. The overwhelming majority of Americans, myself included, are much more worried about retirement savings and banks then about NASA's woes. Let's let Obama get a good handle on those solutions before we try and divert his attention to other issues.

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