Monday’s New York Times published an editorial on NASA’s budget windfall, calling it “a budgetary coup in a year when most federal programs were ratcheted back to make room for the costly war in Iraq and to alleviate huge deficits.” The editorial does warn, though, that the agency will have to find money to pay for the increasing costs of shuttle return-to-flight activities and a robotic Hubble mission, requiring it to make “wise choices” in other programs to find the additional money. The Times’ suggestion:
NASA should look very hard at terminating its two costliest programs, the International Space Station, now orbiting in a partially built state overhead, and the shuttle fleet that is being resuscitated to carry parts and astronauts up to the station. Those two programs eat up much of the NASA budget for little real gain.
As the editorial also notes, “The one thing that has become apparent since President Bush proposed putting astronauts on the Moon and Mars is that no such plan can gain momentum until the station-shuttle complex is shut down.”
Meanwhile, another Times, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, also takes aim at NASA in an editorial Saturday. Like their counterparts in New York, the St. Pete Times is somewhat skeptical of NASA’s plans:
Americans may be mesmerized by the prospect of reaching new frontiers in space, but the nation has hardly had a debate about NASA’s mission and the associated costs. O’Keefe has a role to play as the agency’s cheerleader, especially in the wake of the shuttle disasters. But his larger responsibility is to guide the nation as it sets both creative and fiscal priorities.
The editorial concludes that “the administration, Congress and the scientific community need to weigh more thoroughly how the president’s plan would serve science and affect other domestic priorities.”