In spite of my interest in the space program, I missed this change at NASA until now - even though it took place in February. I don't feel too bad - even NASA employees were not told, and the New York Times did not report the news until July.
The Bush Administration "quietly altered" NASA's mission statement, removing the phrase "To understand and protect the home planet..."
Okay, what does it matter? It is just a mission statement. It's not like anybody pays attention to these things, right?
Well, wrong, actually.
As reported in the New York Times article, "NASA's Goals Delete Mention of Home Planet," As reported in the New York Times, James E. Hansen, the director of NASA'S Goddard Institute for Space Studies frequently used the phrase.
Hansen spoke out on the issue of global warming. His greatest offense occurred when he embarrassed the Bush Administration by reporting that the White House was using (former) members of the oil industry to rewrite scientific reports on global warming to fit the government’s belief that there climate change was not a problem, and that NASA censors were prohibiting him from speaking honestly about what this research was showing.
In addition, NASA scientists frequently make reference to the mission statement when they make funding requests. Scientists who propose projects that advance NASA’s mission have a more solid foundation for funding. The New York Times article reports,
“We refer to the mission statement in all our research proposals that go out for peer review, whenever we have strategy meetings,” said Philip B. Russell, a 25-year NASA veteran who is an atmospheric chemist at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “As civil servants, we’re paid to carry out NASA’s mission. When there was that very easy-to-understand statement that our job is to protect the planet, that made it much easier to justify this kind of work.”
In fact, this change in mission statement has accompanied a shift in funds. In June of this year, it was reported that NASA has cancelled a number of climate monitoring satellite projects in order to free up money to carry out Bush’s project of sending people to the moon to live.
Now, I have often written in defense of developing a human presence in space. Given an interest in seeing that the human race survive as long as possible, and the fact that spreading out across the solar system will dramatically improve our chance for long-term survival, I have marked this as a moral requirement – a ‘public good’ that is fit for government funding. In this regard, I have not spoken favorably about NASA’s monopoly on manned space flights, and would rather see them spend the same money offering prizes for private accomplishments in space. However, I am not writing here as a criticism of manned space flight.
However, I have written that NASA, being a taxpayer-funded organization, has a duty to use that money for the benefit of those who are paying the taxes. What the people of the Earth need more than a small group of people living on the moon is to know what we are doing to our climate and the best steps we can take to reduce the chance that we will suffer the worst of those consequences.
We need data.
The Bush Administration does not want us to have data. They want us to stay ignorant. If we had data, there is the risk that we would discover that many of his friends and campaign contributors are performing actions that will kill countless people and destroy or seriously damage every coastal city on the planet. That would be bad for him and his friends. Therefore, instead of actually trying to protect every coastal city on the planet from destruction, the Bush Administration is willing to risk their destruction, as long as the risk feeds the bank accounts of his oil industry friends.
At times, it is almost as if key members of the Bush Administration believe that the Earth is not going to survive long anyway, so they do not need to worry about its future. We do not need to concern ourselves with the destruction of our coastal cities during this or the next century, since we will not be around long enough to suffer those consequences. We do not need to worry about the government deficit since we will not, as a country, live long enough to pay back the debts. We do not need to worry about the long-run health of social security since there will be no elderly around in 20 or 30 years to pick up the benefits.
It is almost as if he believes that 20 to 30 years from now does not matter – either because he believes that people will not be around at that time, or he does not care about the effects of his actions on future generations since they do not vote and cannot contribute money to his gang’s political machine.
Those who wish to keep us in ignorance – keep us in darkness – are those who think that if we knew enough that we could make intelligent decisions, they will not benefit as much as they do when we base our decisions on ignorance.
NASA’s primary and most important mission should always be to understand and protect our home planet. Knowledge is how we keep from making costly mistakes, and how we recognize the opportunity to harvest the greatest benefits. We should have a manned space program (though, again, I favor prizes over government projects). However, we should not pay for that manned space program by promoting and preserving ignorance of our home planet.
This change in NASA’s mission statement (and the change in the funding of NASA projects consistent with this mission statement change) is just another piece of evidence going towards the conclusion that our nation is being run by a group of people who are maliciously unconcerned about the harm their actions may do to others. Whole cities can be destroyed, as long as they have the largest possible share of the wealth and power to be found today.
These people are truly evil.