Imagine that your’e the head of a biggish governmental agency in the middle of a budget crunch. You need a bit more cash to finish the year under budget, but you know that the government’s got its own fiscal problems to deal with. What do you do?
If your first reaction was ‘make do with what you’ve got,’ now you know why you’re not running a government agency.
You could just pick up the phone and call in some chips from Congressional allies. Even if that works you’ve rashly called in favors that you might need later if you get caught sneaking kickbacks or some new administration has a golden boy they want to park at your desk. Plus it makes you look like a poor fiscal manager.
You could try running the agency more efficiently until the balance goes back into the black, but the problem with that approach is that people will figure that you can pull the same trick next year. They’ll come to expect it and funds will go to squeakier wheels than you. Road crews, for example, have a magical ability at spending just enough each year to justify more cash next year; if some inventor ever created a pothole-proof asphalt he’d likely end up as foundation for an off-ramp.
The ideal solution calls for a touch of theater. Assuming that anybody cares about what you do, wait until the last minute and cut whatever you think people will miss most (call it program ‘A’). The media will go nuts and politicians who normally wouldn’t give a rat’s ear suddenly have to deal with screaming constituents jamming their phone lines. If there’s a program that you want to kill, call it program ‘B,’ leak word that shifted priorities to B have made A unsustainable. You create a crisis environment, which is where government does its best work, and you’ve laid out a clear solution. Congress can either raise taxes, defund school lunches or direct you to cut ‘B,’ it’s all good.
As far as NASA is concerned Mars is program ‘B’ in a big way. Bush’s mania for manned space exploration has drained resources from important missions and forced scientists to shoehorn a Mars angle into practically everything they do, which can make doing their job a real pain in the butt:
In the months before the 2004 election, according to interviews and some documents, these appointees sought to review news releases and to approve or deny news media requests to interview NASA scientists.
Repeatedly that year, public-affairs directors at all of NASA’s science centers were admonished by White House appointees at headquarters to focus all attention on Mr. Bush’s January 2004 “vision” for returning to the Moon and eventually traveling to Mars.
…Many people working at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said that at the same time, there was a slowdown in these centers’ ability to publish anything related to climate.
The leaks regarding Bush’s misguided management of NASA have the ring of truth for any of several reasons. If the president’s sole concern about postwar Iraq was whether the new prime minister would personally thank him then it makes perfect sense that he’d redirect NASA on an ego-driven snipe hunt. With that in mind, it looks like NASA administrator Michael Griffin is pushing back with a bit of brinksmanship-style theater (see below) . More power to him. In a pissing contest between NASA and the president’s airheaded “vision” I support NASA 100%.
Budget Cuts Back Much- Promoted NASA Missions
Some of the most highly promoted missions on NASA’s scientific agenda would be postponed indefinitely or perhaps even canceled under the agency’s new budget, despite its administrator’s vow to Congress six months ago that not “one thin dime” would be taken from space science to pay for President Bush’s plan to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars.
…Among the casualties in the budget, released last month, are efforts to look for habitable planets and perhaps life elsewhere in the galaxy, an investigation of the dark energy that seems to be ripping the universe apart, bringing a sample of Mars back to Earth and exploring for life under the ice of Jupiter’s moon Europa — as well as numerous smaller programs and individual research projects that astronomers say are the wellsprings of new science and new scientists.
The agency’s administrator, Michael D. Griffin, says NASA needs the money to keep the space shuttle fleet aloft, complete the International Space Station and build a new crew exploration vehicle to replace the shuttle.
On the other hand, brinksmanship with Republicans seems like a risky gambit. The right wing has no great love affair with science, especially for an agency that keeps adding fuel to that liberal global warming nonsense. Cross your fingers.
This is rich:
In case you didn’t notice, you don’t need more cash to finish “under budget”, you need more cash to pay your creditors when you are already “over budget”. Nothing like a leftie. “Can’t be out of money, I still have checks!!!”
You’re exactly right Sherard, Kerry really has made a mess of NASA.
Tim, I propose you check Amazon for a used copy of “Buzz Aldrin’s race into space”. I’m sure it’s THE game for you!
So you don’t think returning to the moon and getting to Mars is as important (much more important IMO) than this hokey climate “science”?
Where you going to go if you are right and the earth is doomed?
I am ashamed that we have not been back to the moon in so long. I am ashamed that we don’t have a permanent moon base and regular missions to Mars (and Venus). NASA has become a joke – but not for the reasons you espouse…
Fortunately private space exploration will soon fill the gap.
Whatever. Survivor is on. TV and beer. Mnnnnnn.
I’m more inclined to think that the Space Shuttle program is the real program B.
I’m inclined to think even you could parody DougJ. At least I hope so.
Not only does NASA keep digging up evidence for global warming, they also keep finding evidence that the universe is older than 6000 years. What’s not to hate?
OC Steve just proves yet again that Schiller is right: “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.”
Incidentally, Steve, if you REALLY want to go to Venus, don’t let me stop you. At a surface temperature of 890 deg F., it’s just the place for you.
Something else for those so-called “capitalists” out there. Not. Science is out, the shuttle replacement is in. That means anyone other than Lockheed-Boeing (basically one rocket division now) is competition. You can expect that to be codified into the appropriate corporate welfare programs soon.
When McDonnel Douglas developed this: DC-X, the shuttle folks saw it as a threat. The mature form of this technology would threaten the need for 1000’s of ground personnel. One day, I was watching a DC-X test on the monitors in the new Mission Control Center building at JSC. The vehicle took off, flew around and had an on-board explosion and started burning.
The engineers and flight controllers in the room started cheering.
Alas, they fell on deaf ears, as the DC-X landed itself and flew again.
I love NASA but they can’t ignore the rise in private space travel. They also can’t forget that they are a luxury and must capture public interest to keep pressure on their budget. Where’s the next hubble? Where are the new images? Mars had water a billion years ago. So what? NASA is not in charge of colonizing other planets. That is a long process and requires many steps that are not part of NASA’s doctrine. In short NASA needs to decide what their goals are. Americans aren’t interested in ants and frogs in space anymore. They’re tired of the shuttle. The last great thing from NASA was the hubble and it’s been downhill ever since. Space is not boring. Just NASA.
Here here. I think Branson et al. have some of the neatest ideas (well, aside from the space elevator, how are you coming on those long nanotubes, guys?)
Japan is going into carbon nanotube technology in a big way. I picked up a popular science book on the stuff the last time I was there, am (slowly) slogging through it.
Space tourism forever!
The James Webb telescope is still funded, but slowed.
The Origins programs like the Terrestrial Planet Finder will die. This system would be able to perform spectrographs of extra-terrestrial planets (life indicators). Another program for developing the technologies to image those planets would also die.
Basically, it’s science that has the highest probability of answering the biggest questions of our time. Or you can kick moon rocks.
Where’s the sound science? There’s no sound science, just a bunch of wibwul “scientists” propagating Marxist theories about global warming and the big bang. Let them get real jobs. Maybe then they’ll understand what sound science is.
poor doug. he spends his life holding opinions that aren’t steeped in fact. no wonder he hates science.
NO you CAN’T. It is ILLEGAL for Federal Employees to lobby Congress for funding for their programs.
For many Federal programs, the staff are not even allowed to speak to anyone from a Congressional Office. Not even on the phone. All correspondence between “The Hill” and Federal agencies go through specific channels and controlled correspondence.
This should be fun to watch.
Maybe it is the left wing scientist’s propensity to make stuff up.
The Population Bomb
“Write this down. M.A.R.S. That’s right! Mars, bitches! Red rocks yeh yeh!”
Can’t believe no one has quoted Chapelle yet…
Forgot one near and dear to Tim F’s heart.
The Amazing Rise And Fall Of A Stem Cell King
“Marxist theories about the Big Bang”? This guy has GOT to be a liberal mole.
“Working masses of neutrinos, unite!”
As for Paul L.: Yes, Virginia, left-wing scientists do have a propensity to make stuff up. So do right-wing ones (John Watson, Cyril Burt, the “Bell Curve” duo…)
As for global warming: it isn’t just a few left-wing scientists crying in the wilderness who think there’s meat in that one. All the way back in 1991 a Gallup Poll of 400 climatologists and atmospheric scientists (which I’m looking at a copy of as I speak) showed a landslide majority thinking there was probably serious substance in it; and since then (as the regular science journals will quickly reveal to you if you ever read them), that consensus has greatly strengthened. Which means that we had better start making our political and economic plans accordingly — as well as funding more climate-observation research to make sure once and for all whether or not the threat is real (which this Administration is ALSO curiously averse to doing, despite the possibility that such studies might reveal the danger to be a false alarm after all. Shucks, one would almost think that they don’t CARE whether or not it’s really a false alarm.)
Most of what passes for science these days is nothing more than left-wing propagnda. There’s hardly any sound science anywhere anymore.
That’s so true. The best evidence of this: the preeminent mathematicians in the world were all Russian, back in the Communist days.
“Working masses of neutrinos, unite!”
Bruce, definite bumper sticker. You owe me a new keyboard.
Not all, demi!
“Most of what passes for science these days is nothing more than left-wing propagnda. There’s hardly any sound science anywhere anymore.”
Yeh. You have to dig hard nowadays to find really sound scientists, like Michael Crichton…
I don’t know — here in Seattle, we have a hard time avoiding the Sound Science of fine, upstanding organizations like the Discovery Institute.
Oops. I forgot DougJ IS a liberal mole. My bad.