The big takeaway from Byron York’s piece on the new mission of NASA will probably focus on making Muslims feel better about their scientific achievements, but that’s really just one part of the problem. The expressed instructions from Barack Obama to Charles Bolden, the new administrator of National Aeronautics and Space Administration, all have one thing in common: they have nothing to do with space. Obama’s three new objectives have nothing to do with anything for which Congress should provide funds to NASA:
In a far-reaching restatement of goals for the nation’s space agency, NASA administrator Charles Bolden says President Obama has ordered him to pursue three new objectives: to “re-inspire children” to study science and math, to “expand our international relationships,” and to “reach out to the Muslim world.” Of those three goals, Bolden said in a recent interview with al-Jazeera, the mission to reach out to Muslims is “perhaps foremost,” because it will help Islamic nations “feel good” about their scientific accomplishments.
In the same interview, Bolden also said the United States, which first sent men to the moon in 1969, is no longer capable of reaching beyond low earth orbit without help from other nations.
Bolden made the statements during a recent trip to the Middle East. He told al-Jazeera that in the wake of the president’s speech in Cairo last year, the American space agency is now pursuing “a new beginning of the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world.” Then:
When I became the NASA Administrator — before I became the NASA Administrator — [Obama] 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, math, and engineering.
Hey, maybe that’s why Obama hasn’t taken the Iranian effort to build a nuclear bomb all that seriously until now. He just wanted Iran to make the Muslim world feel good about their achievements in science! And it’s hard to do to that unless you talk a lot about outstretched open hands — and ignore a freedom movement that wants to depose the brutal tyrants who are trying to give the Muslim world a new “historic contribution.”
Actually, Muslim nations should be insulted by the idea that the US pays NASA to provide them with paternalistic and patronizing validation and self-esteem boosts. And they probably will be.
The problem Byron uncovers goes farther than just the Muslim outreach, though. NASA has always inspired children and even bolstered international relations, but not because that was its mission. It did those things by pursuing solid goals of exploration of space, which is why Congress funds the agency. Those esteem-boosters came as a secondary result of actual achievement, not as an end in itself. The Obama administration wants to turn this over onto its head by making NASA a bureaucracy dedicated to self-esteem which might at some point have a goal that has to do with exploration of space.
This is a recipe for failure on an expensive scale. Congress needs to either get the White House to redefine its mission for NASA or cut off its funds until the self-esteem party is canceled.