To boldly backtrack where none has backtracked before

July 23, 2006

The NASA mission statement as it was drawn up, with massive input from scientists around the country, in 2002:

To understand and protect our home planet.
To explore the Universe and search for life.
To inspire the next generation of explorers…
as only NASA can.

The NASA mission statement, as it was imposed last week from the top down:

To advance and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding of the earth, the solar system, and the universe.
To advance human exploration, use, and development of space.
To research, develop, verify, and transfer advanced aeronautics and space technologies.

The earth gets a one-word mention. We only want to “understand” it now, not to “protect” it. As befits the eternal Bush mantra: we are deeply concerned about global warming, which is why we want to study it very carefully for another few decades before we, you know, do anything about it. Not that there’s any real interest even in the “understanding” part. Last month, you may recall, the Bush administration deep sixed two previously approved programs to monitor moisture and climate.

This has, of course, nothing whatsoever to do with top NASA climatologist Jim Hansen’s frequent reference to the old mission statement as he has spoken out about the dangers of climate change.

Still more disturbing, I feel, is the demotion of Earth from its former status as “home planet.” How painful must be the pinch of exile felt by members of this Administration from their own home planet. But rather than terraform Mars, they are soldiering bravely on to bring our own blue-green globe under the rule of Mars, the god of war. Above, a photo snapped by our crack correspondent on location in the future, of downtown Washington D.C., once they’ve succeeded.


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