That’s a direct quote from an unusual op-ed in Thursday’s Orlando Sentinel penned by two former senators—Jake Garn and John Glenn—and current senator Bill Nelson. The three say they don’t know for certain why the White House has failed to provide the appropriate guidance and funding needed to implement the Vision, “though we suspect it can be explained by Bush not knowing all the facts about what the real impact of NASA’s annual budgets has been since the loss of the Columbia in 2003.”
And what doesn’t Bush know? The three believe he’s not aware that NASA has not been reimbursed for the costs returning the shuttle to service after the Columbia accident, forced to come up with the $2.8 billion by raiding other programs. They believe Bush doesn’t know that the budget requests for the Vision his administration has submitted “have been on average a half-a-billion per year less than he projected” when the Vision was unveiled in 2004. He may also be unaware, they claim, that his directive in his 2004 speech about the Vision calling for completing the station and then retiring the shuttle by 2010 “has been turned into a mandate to end the shuttle program in 2010, whether or not the space station is finished.” (See some earlier discussion on differing interpretations of this deadline.) And, they say, Bush isn’t aware his budgets are creating a five-year gap in “U.S. human-spaceflight capability” (correct only if we exclude any US commercial alternatives that may arise during the Shuttle-Constellation interregnum.)
Fortunately, Congress is coming to the rescue because it “knows what it seems that Bush doesn’t” and is pressing ahead with authorization legislation that addresses many of these issues. (The op-ed ignores that current versions of appropriations bills are funding NASA at levels much lower than what is authorized—and the situation may only get worse if legislative gridlock forces NASA and other federal agencies to spend a significant part of FY2009 on a continuing resolution.) “Congress should reject the administration’s position on the NASA reauthorization bill, because to accept it is to surrender America’s leadership in space exploration” when other countries, including everyone’s favorite bogeyman, China, “are waiting in the wings”.