Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Some details on how our non-Keynesian president thinks about space policy...

...at a time when we need big public investments. From the Space Politics blog:

"The [New Yorker] article notes that as a candidate for president in 2008, Obama “had promised a bold space program”, a reference to his space policy white paper the campaign released in August 2008. However, according to the New Yorker article, those plans foundered on projections of growing budget deficits. “Especially in light of our new fiscal context, it is not possible to achieve the inspiring space program goals discussed during the campaign,” a November 2009 memo (authorship unstated) advised the president. That sentence, the article noted, was in bold and underlined for particular emphasis. The result:

'Obama was told that he should cancel NASA’s Bush-era Constellation program, along with its support projects, like the Ares launch vehicles, which were designed to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. The program was behind schedule, over budget, and “unachievable.” He agreed to end it. During the stimulus debate, Obama’s metaphorical moon-shot idea—the smart grid—was struck down as unworkable. Now the Administration’s actual moon-shot program was dead, too.'

Later, the article notes the president received a letter dated February 2, 2010—one day after the release of the 2011 budget proposal that announced plans to cancel Constellation, as Obama was advised the previous November—from a Virginia woman whose husband was working on the program. “I voted for you. I supported you. But I am very disappointed in you. You are not the President I thought you were going to be,” the woman, identified only as “Ginger”, wrote, after criticizing the president for cancelling Constellation while continuing to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama’s response to his staff: “can I get a sense of how Ares fit in with our long term NASA strategy to effectively respond”. A few days later he got that information and then instructed an aide to “Draft a short letter for Ginger, answering her primary concern—her husband’s career—for me to send.” What the president was told, and how he decided to respond, aren’t disclosed."

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