Friday, April 16, 2010

The Obama Post-Game Show

President Barack Obama visits the SpaceX launch facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

It's unlikely that President Barack Obama changed many minds after his perfunctory visit yesterday to Kennedy Space Center. If you liked his FY 2011 NASA budget proposal, you probably still like it. If you didn't like it, you probably still don't like it.

Here's a review of the visit on the White House web site. You can read the speech here.

Obama's itinerary was kept fairly vague except for the speech itself. It was announced as he arrived to deliver the speech that after his arrival he'd gone to visit the SpaceX Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. SpaceX founder Elon Musk then issued a statement supporting Obama's proposal. Musk pointed out the hypocrisy of politicians who claim that “the public option was bad in healthcare, but good in space!”

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which describes itself as “the association of companies working to make commercial human spaceflight a reality,” also issued a press release supporting the Obama proposal.

The libertarian-minded Space Frontier Foundation similarly posted a statement on its web site supporting the plan:

The Space Frontier Foundation today called for all Americans to support the new space plan laid out by President Obama, calling a spate of attacks smearing the concepts unfortunate and obviously misinformed. Citing recent editorials, blogs and media appearances by supporters of the old space program, the Foundation urged all parties to take a new look at the proposals laid out by Obama in his April 15 speech at Kennedy Space Center and get behind the new initiative. Led by a small group of well known astronauts and congress members from areas whose districts have benefited from programs now shown to be dead ends or to have wasted billions of dollars in taxpayer funds, the attacks have portrayed the program as an attack on NASA and America’s leadership in space — the Foundation says it is quite the opposite.

Huntington Beach, California congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who has close ties to the Space Frontier Foundation, issued a statement supporting Obama, a lonely Republican voice so far supporting the President on this issue.

I've yet to locate statements by anyone whose opinion changed as a result of the speech.

Time magazine published an article suggesting the visit "fizzled," claiming that it was filled with "tactical blunders." Time criticized his SpaceX visit, stating that "plenty of NASA folks want nothing to do with the private-sector interloper" — which may be true, but the visit wasn't intended to kiss the derrieres of those who want to continue the status quo. It was to send a message that the status quo is over.

The Time article was written by senior writer Jeffrey Kluger, who co-wrote Lost Moon with astronaut Jim Lovell about the Apollo 13 mission. Lovell recently issued a press release condemning the Obama proposal. Kluger failed to disclose in his article his conflict of interest.

Within the D.C. Beltway, the liberal-leaning Washington Post was intrigued by Obama's idea of visiting an asteroid, suggesting it would be a more challenging task than a Moon rehash. The conservative-leaning Washington Times focused more on summarizing Obama's proposal and opposition to it.

The reaction in the local press was predictable.

Florida Today reported that "A polite crowd of 200 at Kennedy Space Center listened as Obama countered a widespread perception that his administration aims to kill the U.S. human spaceflight program." Those who view NASA's main purpose as a local jobs program continue to criticize the proposal, complaining that although Obama's proposal actually creates more jobs than the status quo it doesn't create those jobs now. (I guess they think Obama has a magic wand.) Florida Today also this collection of local comments.


  1. The idea of visiting an asteroid makes me more excited about space exploration than I've been in 20 years. Go NASA!

  2. I'm a Democrat, but I sent Congressman Rohrabacher a thank-you FAX.