White House

Space exploration, immigration reform, and gay marriage

Those are topics you normally don’t associate with one another, but a front-page article in Monday’s Washington Post has found a common thread: all are subjects of highly-publicized Bush Administration initiatives (in favor of or against) that have since languished in Congress because of a perceived lack of a concerted follow-through by the White House:

Proposals to bar gay marriage, rewrite immigration laws, protect Americans from anthrax bacteria and send astronauts to the moon and Mars are progressing slowly — or not at all — even though Bush initially endorsed them at high-visibility events.

The end of the article addresses the space initiative in particular:

Another Bush initiative that drew big headlines — his Jan. 14 call for manned missions to the moon and Mars — fell quiet so quickly that many were left wondering how plausible it might be. Six days after the announcement, Bush delivered his 2004 State of the Union address, in which he did not mention the moon-Mars proposal.

[White House spokesperson Erin] Healy said there was no need to cite the plan in the State of the Union talk because Bush “had just given a major policy speech on it.” Some Democrats see a more partisan explanation.

Well, at least space exploration advocates have some company…

9 comments to Space exploration, immigration reform, and gay marriage

  • Dwayne A. Day

    I read that article and I’m not sure that the space initiative belongs in the same category as the others. As a non-American colleague, who is ignorant of these matters and thus very insightful asked “Well, what would Bush actually be doing that he is not doing? Would he be giving speeches or something?” And the answer is that Bush probably would not be doing anything else at this moment, at least not until the Aldridge Commission report.

    The reality is that Bush outlined the new policy and it is now up to NASA to implement it. The ball is in Congress’ court and NASA and Congress keep batting it back and forth. Bush does not really have to get involved unless it runs into severe trouble. So far, there is no indication that it is in severe trouble, at least in Congress. (The public relations aspect is in some difficulty, but that may not matter at the moment.)

    Now one could argue that the revelation that the space vision was actually removed from the State of the Union is not a good thing because in Washington, perception can become reality–if people perceive that Bush will not back the vision that he outlined, then they may not support it themselves. And certainly articles like this do not help, because they only contribute to this perception.

    I’m trying to thread a fine needle of an argument here. I don’t think that all is well with the implementation of the vision, but I’m not sure what the White House should and could do about it at this time.

  • Bill Turner


    It’s a pity that the space policy announcement coincided with the Democratic nomination race and the election year.

    It would have fared much better if it had been released right after the Columbia Accident Investigation Board reports in 2003.

  • I agree with Dwayne.

    So there.

  • Dwayne A. Day

    I’ll just add one more thing: before the Bush announcement there was a perception (in the press, Congress, elsewhere) that NASA was in major need of reform. The new vision does not really change that. What people want to see are indications that NASA has turned a corner. So what NASA does is more important than what the White House does.

  • I still suspect too many at NASA still don’t get it.

    Much has been made of the recent successes on Mars. One reported reaction has been “Who says we’re not a learning organization?”

    But now some of us are hearing about the down side of that success. People who actually worked on the project finished exhausted and burned out. Personal cost of that success was quite high. Has NASA ever heard the term “Pyrrhic Victory?”

    Keith Cowing recently did an interesting report on a trip by Sean O’Keefe. Now, I respect both Cowing and O’Keefe. Reports suggest that O’Keefe is making a positive difference at the agency. But there was one thing about this trip that set off alarm bells for me. O’Keefe and company left a party at midnight. They departed their hotel (after a “power nap”) at 5:30 AM. This is really stupid. Read either “The Promise of Sleep” by William Dement or “Sleep Thieves” by Stanley Coren to get a good idea of why. Very briefly, one thing that suffers greatly with little sleep is intellectual performance. Yes, you can probably get away with it when your tasks are softball interviews and entertaining children, but it’s generally a bad practice.

    I suspect correcting the mess in aerospace is going to take a long time — longer than one administration or even two administrations of the same party. It could take a generation or more. What I want to see at present is a solid foundation being laid. Openness must be embraced. Facing current realities must be done. And abusing staff must end — even if the staff don’t object. That’s just for a start.

  • Dwayne A. Day

    “Much has been made of the recent successes on Mars. One reported reaction has been “Who says we’re not a learning organization?”

    But now some of us are hearing about the down side of that success. People who actually worked on the project finished exhausted and burned out. Personal cost of that success was quite high.”

    I actually wrote about this in an op-ed that appeared in Space News and then on http://www.thespacereview.com.

    My point was that the _success_ of the Mars rovers does not prove that NASA has learned anything. Success can hide serious flaws. The proof that they have learned has to be found in other things than the outcome. And that is hard to do.

    However, there are actually some positive signs with regard to MER. Some of the key people associated with it have clearly said “We are not going to do things the same way again.” They have publicly stated that they did some things that they should not have done and are learning from that. Now _that_ is a good development.

  • Harold LaValley

    Hubble is a perfect example of how NASA has not changed. Send it there, at what ever it cost and then if it breaks throw it away. There are many solutions some more costlier then others but if the right choices are made then we can move forward with the shuttle otherwise we are grounded until a new rocket is designed. Here is a solution, Modifiy one of the experiment containers from space hab with extra shielding, strip out all that is not needed for a survival safe haven habitat, make interlocking ports for docking on either end, and fill with ample supplies. Launch using any rocket that can lift the weight into orbit near the Hubble. Now the safe Haven requirement is satisfied and you now have another place other than the ISS to do experimentation in. Probably the Military would be able to pick up the tab and use it as well as an observation post. But in either case hiding ones head in the sand for safety sake does nothing, we need to be exploring something other than LEO experimentation.
    Add more units to existing structure as you go also place more units at other inclinations but at same orbital diameter. Doing so would allow for a ships to journey from station to station linking each other due to close proximity.

  • Bill White

    An X-38 parked near Hubble works as well.

    An X-38 attached to ISS offer additional safe haven in the event the orbiter crew needs to take refuge at ISS – – which may not be as safe a “safe haven” for a large crew as we might think.

  • Harold LaValley

    I believe the x-38 was another of those cancelled projects but I agree safe return is the best option followed by safe haven retreats.

    Who has the build contract for the x-38 anyway and can they complete a single unit for trials for a Hubble mission fully automated for return if not needed by repairing crew.
    Also can x-38 be launched on a smaller external tank than the shuttle inorder to make it cheaper to launch than a shuttle.