Friday, February 04, 2005

Playing Politics Beyond the Atmosphere's Edge: The 2005 Budget

The Democratic membership of the House Science Committee has fired a salvo at the President's Moon-Mars Initiative and they rely on two canards to argue against funding it.

First, they express concern over science funding. Ranking Member Bart Gordon "warned that science and technology -- vital to US technological growth and economic competitiveness -- will likely be severely under funded in the President's [budget] request." This is a falacious argument. Sure, it's quite likely that some NASA science programs will be cut or eliminated to pay for the Moon-Mars Initiative. But that won't mean that science and technology will be underfunded. It'll just mean that the spending priorities in the space program will shift from unmanned programs to manned. This is likely to enhance rather than diminish US technological growth as programs to develop new technologies will be funded in order to send humans beyond Lower Earth Orbit. In addition, science will be enhanced as humans begin to supplement the work of robots on Luna and Mars. Human scientists will produce more science than robots ever will because of human superiority over robots. Humans, we're just better.

Second, the Democrats warn against funding the Moon-Mars Initiative at the expense of other government programs, or as they put it, "... at the cost of deferring commitments to our children, our veterans or other national priorities." This criticism is false because no money is being taken from "our children" or "our veterans" or other "priorities" because the fiscal genius of the President's Moon-Mars Initiative is that it is funded, except for a very small increase, within NASA's existing budget. That's why the scientists with vested interests in unmanned space science are upset. They know that the initiative will have to be funded by taking money from their pet projects and giving it to the manned program. The Initiative will not change the priorities of government spending. Indeed, that's what has so many human space advocates grumbling. They believe that if the President were serious about the Initiative he would be spending his political capital on it and he would be funding it at the expense of other "priorities."

There are valid criticisms to be made of the President's Moon-Mars Initiative. The ones made by the Democrats in this budget salvo aren't among them, however.



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