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More Luddite Malarkey

Ah, yes, the old “Space Exploration Takes Food From The Mouths of Children” meme bobs up again: House Votes More for Nuclear Space Flight than Earth Cleanup.

Markey told House colleagues that the amendment struck the necessary balance: “our exploration of the stars and our preservation of the Earth.”

Bull. It was simply an attempt to starve the project by a couple of Representatives (Markey D-MA and Bass R-NH) who don’t have the guts to try and kill it outright — why else specifically target Prometheus for this raid? And even though their amendment was (thankfully) voted down, the spin is in: ‘Superfund is being starved of cash to pay for Prometheus!’

The $279 billion the House has voted for Prometheus is in line with the Bush administration’s request, and represents a 133 percent increase over the program’s 2003 appropriations. This figure includes $186 million for the Nuclear Systems Initiative and $93 million for a first flight mission–known as the Jupiter Icy Moon Orbiter (JIMO).

The increase is taken completely out of its context in the program’s schedule. Could it be that that 133% increase is required this year for planned activities, or that the FY2003 funding was so much less because the program only started in January and consisted of preliminary studies?

Taking $115 million out of the initiative and allocating it to the Superfund program, Markey said, would give Prometheus a 31 percent increase and afford Superfund a nine percent increase over 2003 levels.

Well now, this is an interesting inversion of the usual budgetary propaganda theme…it used to be that increases were called “cuts”, now we have a cut being described as an “increase”.

Indeed it is an increase, in absolute dollars, but it may be a completely meaningless increase for being so small. Again, this totally ignores what amount of money is right at this time for what the program is intended to accomplish. This is what I am getting at when I accuse them of attempting to kill Prometheus. Starving it now will mean either a bigger budget item next time around to fund an acceleration of development (making it an even easier target for raiding), or a perpetual stringing along at starvation levels resulting in its eventual cancellation for lack of progress.

“It is an issue of priorities,” Bass added. “The moons of Jupiter are going nowhere, but the people who live around these Superfund sites are people that are affected and potentially affected by this issue every single day.”

Ooh, another hoary old argument. “We’ve got to solve all our problems here on Earth before we can explore space!”. Funny that no matter how many trillions of dollars we spend on those problems, they only seem to get worse. At least money spent on NASA has some positive results, in exactly those areas the Prometheus project is initially intended to serve: robotic probes to the outer planets.

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