Opinion: Houston? You have a problem. Obama sets space summit to change Bush’s Moon plans. Mars maybe


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Mark the calendar again for April 15. It’s a Thursday.

In addition to your income taxes being due, President Obama has called a special space summit in the politically important swing state of Florida that day to change the fundamental direction of NASA in coming years because he believes in change. Bold change, in fact.

This Florida change probably has nothing to do with Obama’s presidential predecessor being from Texas, a state that didn’t vote for the Illinois Democrat when he ran against Hillary Clinton (51-47) and disliked him even more when he ran against John McCain (55-44).

While you were watching the Academy Awards’ red carpet parade and ‘Avatar’s’ James Cameron not win an Oscar for his space-based, highest-grossing, movie-directing in the entire cinematic history of both Earth and Pandora, the White House announced the....


...April space summit on the president’s new directions and the implications for the Sunshine state and the nation. Because what red-blooded American politician wants to appear opposed to exploration?

Now that the administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus plan has in only one year’s time stimulated the nation’s unemployment rate from about 8% to a now steadily-unemployed rate of 9.7%; and since healthcare has helped heighten Washington’s partisan tone despite overwhelming Democratic majorities in Congress; and now here comes immigration reform to hopefully divide Republicans, the 44th president has decided to multi-task his free time with reform of space exploration.

It turns out nobody can describe an ordinary tax-day space summit quite like the galactically-inspired, solid-fuel-boostered, earthbound writers of the White House Press Office.

So here it is. 3-2-1:

After an independent review panel found that the previous program to return astronauts to the Moon was fundamentally un-executable, the President included an additional $6 billion for NASA in his FY2011 budget over the next five years. This funding will help us achieve our boldest aspirations in space. The President’s ambitious new strategy pushes the frontiers of innovation to set NASA on a more dynamic, flexible, and sustainable trajectory that can propel us on a new journey of innovation and discovery.The President and the NASA Administrator both believe that we have to be forward thinking and aggressive in our pursuit of new technologies to take us beyond low-Earth orbit. The President’s plan does this.A foundational element of this new strategy is to invest in the development of a targeted set of inter-related technologies and capabilities that can help us travel from the Earth’s cradle to our nearby Solar System neighborhood in a more effective and affordable way, thus laying the foundation to support journeys to the Moon, asteroids, and eventually to Mars. (Editor’s Note: See photo, not shown actual size.) After years of underinvestment in new technology and unrealistic budgeting, the President’s plan will unveil an ambitious plan for NASA that sets the agency on a reinvigorated path of space exploration.

OK. ‘Boldest aspirations in space.’ ‘New journey of innovation and discovery.’ ‘Forward thinking.’ ‘Foundational element.’ ‘Targeted set of inter-related technologies and capabilities.’

In English this translates to Obama’s new budget would cancel for now the return of NASA astronauts to the moon to explore and possibly colonize. The ex-senator wants new space directions with emphasis on milking more years out of the International Space Station and developing technologies to go somewhere else maybe someday who knows.

And to accomplish that he’s prepared over the next five years to spend an additional $6 billion.

To put that once-enormous sum in perspective, ‘Avatar’ fans have already spent a third as much on movie tickets to watch blue creatures. Not to mention money the patrons dished out for overpriced popcorn and Twizzlers.

All of which makes this space reform seem less like bold aspirations and more like a cheap short subject.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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