NASA has lost its way

Published 10:30 am Friday, October 14, 2016

by Rick Jensen

Kids have to read history books to learn there was once an indelible American excitement to explore the universe.

Sure, Transformers stage their animated attack from the moon, but there was once a time when real Americans risked their lives to pave the way for future generations to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Now, some of us boldly click to wonder at the high def Hubble pictures of Europa’s icy water plume, anticipating JunoCam’s wondrous eye on Jupiter.

Sadly, President Obama has relegated most of NASA’s budget to the politically charged mission of proving man-made climate change.

President Obama’s 2017 budget proposal cuts deep space exploration programs by more than $800 million. Also, the administration proposes even more cuts of more than $100 million to the Planetary Science accounts, which have been used to fund missions like the Pluto flyby.

Instead, Obama pushes for over $2 billion for the “Earth Science Mission Directorate” for global warming science.

In other words, the science of space exploration is being replaced with the politics of climate change, of which there is a serious debate among thousands of scientists.

Over 31,000 scientists firmly believe that mankind’s activity has no significant impact on earth’s climate.

Still, partisan alarmists insist there is only one “science” in this debate and while they insist on spending billions of dollars to try to convince unconvinced climate scientists just how wrong they are, the government’s role in space exploration is diminishing.

President Bush’s 2004 challenge for NASA to again “explore space and extend a human presence across our solar system” has been replaced with the private sector picking up the fallen mantle and carrying it into the great unknown.

Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneurial founder of Tesla Motors and the Space X program, is such a vision warrior.

Ironically, Musk is a proponent of the theory that man is causing climate change.  Still, he’s not counting on the government to make his life perfect. He has built his own solar company and electric car company.

Now, he is proposing his private Space X company design and build a rocket to take humans to Mars and plant a greenhouse to see if Earth plants can grow there.

Naturally, he’s asking for some government money to help finance this multi-year, $10 billion project.

Maybe it’s time to disband NASA and fund private partnerships.

While we’ve seen billions of dollars thrown away into failed “green” projects wherein Democratic party bundlers walk away with millions in their golden parachutes, perhaps that money would be better invested in what was once a grand adventure in the history of human beings: space exploration.

Musk told reporters each of the SpaceX vehicles would take 100 passengers on the journey to Mars, with trips planned every 26 months. Tickets per person might cost $500,000 at first, and drop to about a third of that later on.

To establish a self-sustaining Mars civilization of a million people would take 10,000 flights, with many more to ferry equipment and supplies.

“We’re going to need something quite large to do that,” Mr. Musk said. “It would take between 40 years to a century before the city on Mars became self-sufficient.”

Musk has been pretty successful launching satellites with his Falcon 9 rocket as well as delivering supplies to the International Space Station.

There are dangers, of course. Three of the 29 launches experienced explosive failures to achieve orbit. Not a good day were 100 passengers aboard those flights.

These are the risks many would be willing to take and in these times of political unease and general malaise in this country, maybe it’s time for what was Newt Gingrich’s great space vision: a colony on the moon and then Mars.

Democrats and liberals laughed at Newt’s vision when he passionately proposed it on my radio program in 2012. Obama forbade any funding.

Perhaps they’ll scrape the partisan scales from their eyes when promoted by fellow traveler Elon Musk.

RICK JENSEN is Delaware’s award-winning conservative talk show host on WDEL, streaming live on from 1 to 4 p.m. EST. Contact Rick at, or follow him on Twitter @Jensen1150WDEL.