The closest thing to space in last night’s debate was this quip by John McCain criticizing what he considered to be Barack Obama’s big-spending ways:
He voted for nearly a billion dollars in pork barrel earmark projects, including, by the way, $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?
$3 million does sound pretty pricey for an overhead projector: can’t you pick up one of those pretty much for free, collecting dust in a corner of a classroom or office, having been passed over in favor of more modern computer projectors? Well, the “overhead projector” that Obama sought funding for was a little more sophisticated than that:
Adler Planetarium, to support replacement of its projector and related equipment, $3,000,000
One of its most popular attractions and teaching tools at the Adler Planetarium is the Sky Theater. The projection equipment in this theater is 40 years old, and is no longer supported with parts or service by the manufacturer. It has begun to fail, leaving the theater dark and groups of school students and other interested museum-goers without this very valuable and exciting learning experience.
So was Obama expressing his interest in science and education by seeking the money, or was he trying to reward some campaign donors who serve on the planetarium’s board of trustees, as some allege? For the planetarium, at least, it’s a moot point: the funding didn’t come through.