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Space Policy: United We Stand, Divided We Fade

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
December 10, 2013
Filed under

NASA: Some perspective and gratitude, WTOP
“Americans are aware of NASA but I do not think they realize how much NASA does and for how little money. Do you know what NASA’s budget is for 2014? Thanks to our deadlocked and dysfunctional Congress there is no approved budget for the Government. NASA is looking at roughly $17.7 billion requested by President Barack Obama for FY2014. That breaks down to roughly 15 cents a day per American and less than 1 cent a day per human on the planet. I include this last figure as much of what NASA does benefits all of humanity, not just Americans. To put NASA’s budget in perspective, consider these facts – Americans spend $61 billion on their pets per year. Also, a white collar criminal was ordered to pay $170 billion in restitution to his victims.”
Keith’s note: This story manages to mention everything NASA does and how little, in the grand scheme of things, we actually spend on NASA. This article also includes Bill Nye’s latest eponymous and somewhat presumptuous video. Indeed, the press release that the Planetary Society put out trumpeting his message to the President specifically says “Bill Nye the Science Guy®” Gotta make sure he gets his personal trademarked branding in even though he claims to represent a non-profit organization.
If you did not know any better, Bill Nye would have you think that the only thing NASA does – or should do – is planetary science. Everything else – well, why mention it? Nye totally avoids mention of human spaceflight, aeronautics, earth science, commerce, heliophysics, astronomy, biology, education, technology, etc. Yes,I know he’s the CEO and grand spokesman for the Planetary Society. But only promoting a narrow slice of what NASA does, and ignoring the rest of what NASA is engaged in, is self-serving and totally deceptive as far as what the general public and decision makers need to hear.
A policy for NASA’s budget that does not consider all that the agency does is one that is doomed to fail – or, worse – one that serves to spark a civil war over an ever-shrinking budget. No one wins in such a scenario.
Bill Nye Calls on President Obama to Embrace Planetary Exploration for NASA’s Future

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.

10 responses to “Space Policy: United We Stand, Divided We Fade”

  1. Michael Spencer says:

    Keith, you are all wet on this one! Here’s why:

    Let’s leave aside the ® mark: US law demands that one protect or loose valuable marks. Fine. But Bill does go through a fairly long list and, to be fair, does mention NASA’s efforts to return to HSF.

    These presentations have a time limit, too, and he managed to make a strong, short and forceful case. Remember, too, that his audience wasn’t NASAWatch space geeks like us who look at every utterance and examine it for inclusiveness. And I admit that I had the same reaction when I first saw that video that you did.

    Another person might look at this video and be quite grateful for a strong advocate– something we need badly, and something we don’t have. I am very happy to see the Science Guy use his respected and increasingly powerful voice on behalf of all of us, the nerds wanting NASA to succeed.

    Your reaction is exactly what I would have expected from you, too; yours is a tireless voice on this subject. But Bill’s ‘dumbing down’ will benefit all of us hugely. One can hope.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree, Keith. Bill Nye’s video would have been much better had he just advocated for increasing NASA’s budget instead of advocating only for an increase in funding of planetary science. Better yet, we could have instead been the voice of a campaign against the effort by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to give JWST and SLS eternal funding. If that becomes law, I think that will be much more damaging in the long run to NASA and to planetary science than this year’s funding issues.

    • savuporo says:

      I disagree that advocating for bigger NASA budget in the times where budgets everywhere are shrinking is productive – i think it will actually have the opposite effect. A lot of people would get angry.
      Advocating for bigger SMD budget assuming the overall budget stays the same or shrinks effectively means targeting some other budget line.
      Message from planetary society stopped short of calling anyone out however, which is tactful of them but a war is inevitable. The planetary science community would do themselves a good favor picking good allies in the coming war – so far they dont seem to have picked any.
      I think the picture would become clear if CSF would go and endorse this message ..

  3. rebeccar1234 says:

    I agree with the sentiment and thought the same thing about why planetary is more important than everything else. However, I’m afraid that civil war you mention over ever-shrinking budgets is already underway and will proceed to get nastier so long as trends continue, with or without any sparking by Mr. Nye.

  4. TheBrett says:

    The amount for Planetary Science is much smaller than the $17.7 billion, so it might be easier to sell people on the whole “it costs next to nothing!” argument with the Planetary Science-only amount.

    It’s harder to sell the $17.7 billion by itself. That’s nothing compared to the overall federal budget, but it actually is quite a big chunk of money to spend on science-related stuff – the National Institutes of Health only get about $25-30 billion.

  5. David Hopkins says:

    Bill Nye lost all credibility with me back in March, 2011 when he weighed in on the Fukishima crisis in Japan. As someone with 30+ years of experience in nuclear power generation, his grandstanding on CNN (and very obvious mistakes regarding nuclear power) disgusted me. I trust him to only look to forward Bill Nye, not any thing of substance.

  6. Steven Rappolee says:

    back in the 1980’s I was in the air force at Norton AFB and from time to time a planetary society member.Then we had Carl Sagan and other founding members Advocating a Joint Soviet American Mars mission.
    So Bill is the new Guy who is still in Training

    • Paul451 says:

      However, Sagan was despised by a lot of the old hands (and his career damaged) because he was a contemptible “science populariser”.