In an essay published Thursday, SPACE.com science writer Robert Roy Britt comments on the lack of support for the new space initiative within Congress, bringing up a number of points discussed here and elsewhere recently. He also notes recent reports that the bulk of the budget increase NASA has asked for will go to support the shuttle and station programs, rather than the initiative. Britt wonders if that money is well-spent:
While the body tasked with overseeing NASA’s internal overhaul in the wake of the Columbia disaster investigation, the Stafford-Covey Task Group, says the agency is completing the steps needed to launch the orbiters, engineers dealing with the day-to-day work of retrofitting and repairing the aging fleet have a dimmer view. The longer they work to fix the flawed spacecraft, the more problems they find. They may be safeguarding the fleet straight into the Smithsonian.
Meanwhile, Frank Sietzen, writing for UPI, also argues that “interest by the public and politicians has failed to ignite.” He notes that there appears to have been a lack of a strategy to promote the plan once it was announced in January, an assessment others—myself included—concur with. (Quote: “‘They thought that we would just stand up and salute,’ one congressional staffer lamented.”) One professor quoted in the article argues that the cost and “grimness” of the Iraq war has made many wary of supporting something as “frivolous” as space exploration. John Pike is quoted in the article arguing that the plan is a scheme by the Bush Administration to abandon manned spaceflight, a claim that seems difficult to support.