I love seeing Republicans, Libertarians, and other “fiscal conservatives” bash Big Government, then pitch a hissy fit when anyone threatens to trim the budget of the oversized agencies in their district. NASA funding is a great illustration of that phenomenon, since much of NASA’s work is based in Red States like Texas and Louisiana.
Case in point: our own Republican Senator David Vitter is forever screaming about scaling back the government, about reining in spending, about relying on the private sector to get things done. Basically, he’s asking us to outsource. Not surprisingly, Vitter vehemently opposed the Big Three bailout (which, FYI, saved thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs), but he gets rootin’ tootin angry when NASA sustains a hit, as he did in 2008 when he claimed that outsourcing space travel was equivalent to letting the Communists win:
“Today’s hearing focused on a number of very important issues facing the future of NASA not addressed in [President George W. Bush’s] FY 2009 budget request. I questioned the NASA administrator about the lack of funding in the president’s budget to accelerate the development of the Ares 1 Launch Vehicle and the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. The existing space shuttle program is due to be phased out by 2010, and if NASA is to continue with its tradition of progress and exploration we must move to address the gap in U.S. human spaceflight capability that will occur with the retirement of these vehicles.
“If we fail to accelerate the funding to close this gap, the U.S. will have no choice but to pay for our astronauts to travel to space in Russian vehicles. I am sure that most Americans will not be pleased to see us paying hundreds of millions of dollars to the Russians to send our astronauts into space at the same time we are laying off highly qualified, experienced and dedicated Americans who have been working on space shuttle programs for the past 27 years. NASA and the administration should examine whether it makes more sense to spend those hundreds of millions of dollars to close the gap rather than to pay the Russians to try to fill it,” said Vitter.
And from yesterday’s email blast:
This week President Obama announced his intention to terminate NASA’s Constellation Program intended to replace the space shuttle. The president’s budget calls for NASA to instead rely solely on so-called “commercial” space launch systems to take our astronauts into space.
Besides being bad for our nation’s space program, the president’s decision is particularly bad for Louisiana and the dedicated workers at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans who have been so integral to NASA since the days of the Apollo Program. If Constellation is completely abandoned as the president wishes, the effect on Michoud’s employees and the local economy would be disastrous.
Now don’t get me wrong: I am a complete science nerd. I love NASA. I think it’s a hugely important program. I just think it’s ironic that a Jeebus-loving, Darwin-hating Creationist would be eager to throw money at a giant-sized government agency that’s so rational, objective, and science-y.