As usual, SHEAm has scooped me in his quick round up of what's going on in the world and what's interesting. There are a few of his little news items that I had intended to write about, most importantly the NASA issue.
NASA- Tim noted that we had a bit of a heated discussion about this very topic last night. Which brings to mind a random tidbit - my new favorite restaurant is Fago de Chao! I had been before for private events, but really last night's dinner was great. And I think I've had enough meat to last me the rest of the year.
Anyway, though it might generally run counter to what one would expect from my ideology, I am a great proponent of expanding NASA funding. We are facing a virtually unprecedented financial crisis, have two wars draining what is left of our federal funds, etc. But given the great 'accidental' discoveries that have come out of our space program thus far and the general human instinct to explore and discover, I think it is vital that we continue to properly fund our space programs.
While I think one of the very few good things that Bush did was to reestablish some goals for our floundering space program: returning to the Moon and eventually a manned mission to Mars. Both are great goals and sound policy. However, instead of continuing to innovate and invest in new technologies, he insted directed NASA to virtually revert to the old Apollo system of single use vehicles. While I acknowledge the great flaws that were found in the shuttle program, let's also recognize that the shuttles are nearly 30 years old. Think just of the general technological shifts that have altered every day life in the last 30 years. Everything from our cars, to our phones (cell phones in general, let alone iPhones!), HD television, all digital TV, etc. Imagine the progress we could make with returnable/reusable vehicles if we properly invested.
The other great argument for this kind of ambitious reinvestment is the entire 'hope' or 'national pride' argument. While I was a very great skeptic of Obama's seemingly empty, useless promises of hope and change, here is an area where that can really matter. It has become cliche to reference JFK's pledge to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960's (a deadline we only barely maintained), but it really was a moment of intense national pride. Maybe without the spectre of the Soviet Union to really challenge and invigorate us we don't have the motivation to succeed, but I'm hoping this will change. To quote Jimmy Carter (whom I fear Obama may just emulate too much), we're in a bit of a national 'malaise'. A space program that does more than just send up telescopes and build a useless, out of date space station would be a great step toward reestablishing that national pride.
Regardless, I hope that President Obama follows through with his pledge to NASA and redirects some of the billions wasted in Iraq every month into the space program. Granted, there are many priorities (fighting unemployment, our disastrous health care system, our declining infrastructure, etc), but I sincerely hope to see progress on this front.