Sunday, July 07, 2013

Barack Obama and the Demise of the US Space Program

It amazes me how so many in the scientific community have fallen in lock step behind Barack Obama. In fact its not uncommon to hear scientists describe Obama as a president who truly understands Science. Yet like so many other platitudes associated with the' Great One' the Obama-Science meme is lacking in substance.

The crown jewel of American Scientific brilliance since the 1960s has been the Space Exploration Program. Indeed JFK centralized it as such with his rousing speeches on the issue, which although framed in cold war swagger undoubtebly galvanized an enthuzed two to three generations of American high school science students. From such endeavours came breakthroughs in biomedical research, telecommunications, engineering and architectural design and looking back at such ab era one can only glow at its achievement. Many spin off technologies that we enjoy today can trace part of their genesis to such an initiative. Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II followed in suit with varying degrees of success but never veering from the primacy of the drive, Yes there were some awful moments (the explosions of the Challenger and Columbia) but all scientific advancements are not immune from setbacks. At the end of the day the successes far outweighed the failures (if indeed they are failures...another point to debate).

Yet it is under Barack Obama that historic role of NASA as an engine for American scientific passion has been all but neutered. No great missions appear on the horizon, a return to the moon is off the agenda (and with it a possible moon base), Mars exploration is dogged in bureaucracy, the space shuttle program has been left to rest while the US (the apparent winner of the Cold War) is forced to resort to Russian transportation to access the International Space Station. We are now further behind in our Global Space Initiatives. So why is it that Obama is still seen as the visionary Science President? For in this realm his record is one of abject disappointment.

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