Funding Our Way to the Final Frontier

Bloggers assess NASA's need for an extra $3 billion a year to get back to the Moon and beyond

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The 40th anniversary of the first moon landing this July prompted notable writers like Tom Wolfe to wax nostalgic and yearn for the glory days of NASA. Now, two months later comes an independent report saying that unless the beleaguered agency's annual $18 billion budget is upped by $3 billion a year, Americans aren't going back to the moon, or anywhere else (read: Mars), anytime soon. As the president contends first with a multitude of other pressing domestic issues, bloggers offer their take on what the findings could mean for the future of U.S. space exploration.
  • Grounded  Michael Cooney understands the gravity of the recent findings, and can't help but be pessimistic, given the fact that NASA has already poured considerable money into future moon landings: "A bleak report was expected by many observers but ultimately how its results are interpreted will determine the future of any manned space flights."
  • Seeing Red?  A memo leaked from within the halls of NASA and reprinted by the Orlando Sentinel last Friday seconds the notion of leaving low-earth orbit to starstruck investors and calls for most of the agency's resources to be directed toward the goal of getting people to Mars in 30 years. However, as the Sentinel points out, the leak may actually reflect divisions within NASA: "Another uncertainty: whether there are competing white papers within the agency and how much power the authors wield within the agency. This could affect its chances of becoming real."
  • A Long Time Ago... Hearkening back to NASA's auspicious origin, Stuart Fox reminds Popular Science readers that just because it's news about space travel doesn't mean its necessarily "new" news: "Basically, the take-home message of the report is the same line NASA's been saying since Mercury: No bucks, no Buck Rogers." 
  • Alternate Realities  Nancy Atkinson mostly abstains from the debate, instead helpfully reproducing the recommended options for NASA's new direction in graphical format. 
  • Commercializing the Cosmos  Andy Pasztor interprets the significance of the report in the Wall Street Journal as follows: "It calls for sweeping changes in the way NASA does business and envisions a dramatically expanded role for private enterprise in human space flight in the coming decades beyond anything proposed previously." Pasztor highlights the report's comparison of contemporary space-faring to the nascent air industry circa 1920, when government incentives spurred on market innovation. 
  • Bush Lightyear?  Wonkette feigns sympathy toward NASA, lambasting Obama for failing to commit to space exploration as readily as his predecessor. "No one ever had to convince Bush that he should give NASA billions of dollars so that some guy could fuck around in space, because it’s SPACE and of course he should??? NASA will settle for going to an asteroid, but what even is that?"
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