NASA changes get lost in space

Back in February, president Barack Obama announced significant changes — and cuts — to this nation’s space program.

Last week he changed course. Political gravity, it seems, was a much stronger force than the president realized when he sought to take the space program into a new orbit.

Therein lies a tale about the difficulties of budget cutting or even significantly changing a federal program in the United States today.

We don’t think space exploration is a waste of money. Much of our modern, satellite-based communication system can trace its roots to the U.S. space program. Even without such practical results, there is great scientific value in exploration for the sake of discovery.

But one can reasonably argue that, in the depths of a recession and severe budget problems, space exploration should not be a top priority.

Not so fast. Politicians objected in a couple of key states — including Colorado’s governor and two senators, all Democrats. One of the programs that was to be cut under Obama’s plan was called the Orion Project, and some 4,000 jobs in Colorado are directly related to that.

The hue and cry from Florida was even greater because of the number of space-related jobs in that state.

So Thursday, Obama jetted down to Florida and announced he was restoring much of what he had proposed to cut, including the Orion project, and will continue to push for his goal of a human trip to Mars sometime in his lifetime.

The U.S. space program may not be moving into warp drive, but it apparently won’t be left at the dock, either.


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