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Mars Myth

The “Bush is sending us to Mars” myth makes an appearance in this article about the upcoming budget request.

Some presidential budget initiatives are big deals when announced, but fade quickly. Remember Bush’s mission to the moon and to Mars?

He put startup funds for the mission in his 2005 budget. Congress rolled it into funds for other space programs. Bush seldom talks about going to Mars any more, and didn’t in Wednesday’s State of the Union.

What did he expect, a Kennedy-style “hard things” speech? Had that happened, we would surely be hearing sneering about Bush’s unrealistic Apollo-scale plans.

Sure, one doesn’t hear Bush talking about the VSE, but then actions speak louder than words. A VSE-sparked organizational shift is underway at NASA, the CEV (integral to the plans for VSE) is about to enter the formal proposal phase, and some of the first steps towards termination of the Shuttle program (a VSE cornerstone, required to free up existing funding for it) have been taken. Mars itself is more of an organizing goal for the agency at this point than a specific budget item requiring speechifying by the President to secure public support. It should hardly come as a surprise that it didn’t get a mention in a SotU speech whose focus was a controversial plan to reorganize a massive welfare program (yes, a cynic could describe the VSE in such terms, but you know what I mean).

Unfortunately, I think (the aptly-named) Raum has half of a point here, just not what he thinks it might be: Bush should at least show a little public backing for the VSE once in a while, if for no other reason than to keep his critics from using it as a token slam against his other policies.

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