It sounds like the Aldrige Commission is starting to do some of the case-building that will be needed to cement public support for the Moon-Mars plan.
They’re tackling the “better spent here” criticism with an old-fashioned appeal to tangible interests…
?We have to start by asking a very fundamental question: Why are we bothering at all?? said Carly Fiorina, chairwoman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co. ?Why are we thinking about going to moon, Mars and beyond when there are so many problems right here on Earth and so much budget pressure right here on Earth??
Even though the president?s exploration initiative represents a mission of greatness, glory and scientific value and is inspiring, that?s not enough, Fiorina said during the commission?s final public hearing, held in New York.
?The pragmatist in all of us says, none of those rationales is sufficient,? said Fiorina, a commission member. ?Although I believe them strongly, individually, I don?t believe they are sufficient to compel a broad-based, long-term bipartisan level of support.?
Fiorina said the most fundamental reason for sending robots and astronauts into the universe is, ?If we don?t do it, someone will.? She cited China?s burgeoning space program, as well as that of Russia and India. The president?s initiative also will help preserve America?s technological leadership, currently threatened by the exodus of high-tech manufacturing jobs overseas, she said.
…and they’re taking on the “trillion-dollar” sticker-shock hysteria:
Aldridge and the other commissioners said they approve of NASA?s ?pay-as-you-go? approach and noted the space agency?s overall budget in the near future will be roughly $15 billion to $17 billion a year, not only affordable but enough to accomplish all the short-term objectives of Bush?s plan.
That’s an appealing assertion, but NASA is going to have it’s work cut out for it demonstrating that it is capable of carrying out the plan on an allowance. Which, conveniently, is exactly what Sean O’Keefe is beginning to do:
[O'Keefe] said he does not know how much it will cost and acknowledged that could be part of NASA?s credibility problem, especially after the international space station overruns of recent years.
?That?s a more important approach that we have adopted, than trying to say, ?Well, what answer would you like??? said O?Keefe, a former federal budget official. ?There?s a fair amount of reputation-building that?s necessary.?
It’s good that he recognizes this, and that he appears to be taking steps to remedy the credibility issue — it will make the “trillion dollar” criticism that much less credible if NASA does (as was anticipated when O’Keefe was brought in) manage to get its finances in order.