You know, I support space exploration, and even I have a hard time with Bush's plea for a Mars mission and a Moon mission redux. His explanation just rang completely hallow. Even I know that space exploration is a bit of a waste of money. Why rush off to spend billions on a project that last I checked wasn't something we could really do?
Oh, that's right. Aerospace contracts. Don't you just love how synergy works?
The folks at NASA are probably too blinded by the money to really ask themselves what is to be gained by going back to the moon and trying to go to Mars. They're good people, but let's face facts. They want to do anything in space. You offer them money to do it, and they won't say no. Doesn't mean its really the best use of our extra-terrestrial exploration funds.
Bush did himself no favors in his pitch by basically bad-mouthing the Mars rover mission that's actually happening NOW. I mean, that's just rude. To trash talk about something the government you're running is doing right now. Show some class. Especially since his reasoning was so suspect. He trashed the rover because we humans need to see things for ourselves. The kind of work of the rover (which he didn't mention specifically, but clearly was referencing) was just not enough, according to Bush. I just don't think that is necessarily true. A lot of space exploration has been thinly vailed public relations stunts. It was when Kennedy proposed it, and I can't help but think it is now, too, that Bush is trying to channel JFK by setting an ambitious plan for space exploration. Thing is, I don't think Bush's ideas will be able to pan out.
But this was the guy who also came up with calling astronauts to bizarre term "spacial entrepreneurs". Seriously. "Spacial entrepreneurs". Says it right their on Whitehous.gov. Go ahead and google that. Seems W. is the FIRST person to ever utter "spacial entrepreneurs". I know, you're shocked.
The whole tenor of his speech was disturbingly unilateral. My impression of the PR aspects of the original moon missions is that we talked about them being for all mankind, and left the world to understand that this was the United States on the moon. Well, planting the flag was less than subtle, but it was also pure symbolism. We didn't say it outright like Bush is doing now. This isn't about all of humanity. This is about what America is gonna do. Such a bald plea for attention isn't likely to do much for our image.
And strictly speaking, Bush's challenge is remarkably underwhelming. Kennedy promissed a man on the moon in 10 years. It was an absurd suggestion in 1960, but sure enough we got there. Bush is proposing to put a man on the moon in 2020. He doesn't even dare suggest a timetable for Mars, probably because he realizes that it'd just be talk and nothing more. Which is another thing that annoys me. He brought up Mars purely to capitalise on the attention given a mission he took the time to dismiss and to get headlines that he knew his 16 years to get back to where we once belonged would get. It was craven and fake.
But whenever those brave spacial entrepreneurs get there, guess we'll have to hear Bush's cheap PR ploy.