Friday, June 01, 2007

NASA’s mission: No longer the "right stuff"

The administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Michael Griffin, said on NPR’s Morning Edition that he was not sure that global warming was “a problem we must wrestle with.” This, of course, flies in the face of President Bush’s proposals yesterday about talks aimed at reducing pollution that cause global warming. Griffin went on to make a more remarkable statement:
To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change. I guess I would ask which human beings -- where and when -- are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take.
This, of course, is from the administrator of an agency that had quietly deleted the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet" from its mission statement last year.

This is from the Washington Post:
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin says that although global warming is changing Earth's climate, he's not convinced that is "a problem we must wrestle with."

The NASA chief -- whose agency has come under fire in Congress for cutting several programs designed to monitor climate change -- also says it's "rather arrogant" for people to take the position that today's climate is the optimal one.

"I guess I would ask which human beings, where and when, are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings," he said during a National Public Radio interview aired yesterday morning.

Griffin's comments come just months after the preeminent international organization on climate change issued a series of reports concluding that global warming will have serious consequences for life on Earth, and he quickly came under sharp attack from leading climate researchers and legislators.

In addition, President Bush yesterday called for the 15 nations that emit the most greenhouse gases to agree on a way to address global warming, days before he attends a summit of industrial powers where climate change will be a focus.

James Hansen, NASA's top official on climate change, said of Griffin's stance: "It was a shocking statement because of the level of ignorance it indicated with regard to the current situation. He seemed unaware that 170 nations agreed that climate change is a serious problem with enormous repercussions, and that many people will suffer if it is not addressed."

Hansen said Griffin's comments help explain why NASA's earth science budget has been severely cut.

In Congress, House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) said, "Setting aside NASA Administrator Griffin's personal views on the significance of global warming, I remain concerned that NASA is not doing as much as needs to be done on climate-change data collection and research."

"Based on NASA's own five-year budget plan, the agency will be unable to start any of the new Earth observations initiatives recommended by the National Academies for the foreseeable future," he said. "That's not going to get us where we need to be in our understanding of climate change."
While the attention is on Griffin’s goofy statements what is overlooked is that NASA has become an agency without direction other than spend large sums of money on boondoggle projects. What all the media have missed so far is that Griffin was invited to Morning Edition to respond to issues raised the day before on the program by Gregg Easterbrook. On Wednesday’s program, Easterbrook was very critical of the direction of NASA and in particular its budget priorities as it pertains to the building of a space station on the moon. As he puts it, “NASA takes a cost-is-no-object approach that appeals only to those who personally benefit from the spending.” The interview was based upon his article in Wired magazine this week critizing the priorities of of NASA which is intent on building a space station on the Moon of questionable value.
Here is Easterbrook on NASA:
Here is a set of rational priorities for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in descending order of importance: (1) Conduct research, particularly environmental research, on Earth, the sun, and Venus, the most Earth-like planet. (2) Locate asteroids and comets that might strike Earth, and devise a practical means of deflecting them. (3) Increase humanity's store of knowledge by studying the distant universe. (4) Figure out a way to replace today's chemical rockets with a much cheaper way to reach Earth orbit.

Here are NASA's apparent current priorities: (1) Maintain a pointless space station. (2) Build a pointless Motel 6 on the moon. (3) Increase humanity's store of knowledge by studying the distant universe. (4) Keep money flowing to favored aerospace contractors and congressional districts.

Only one priority of four correct! Worse, NASA's to-do list neglects the two things that are actually of tangible value to the taxpayers who foot its bills — research relevant to environmental policymaking and asteroid-strike protection. NASA has recently been canceling or postponing "Earth observation" missions intended to generate environmental information about our world…
This is an agency that is sorely in need of clear thinking and leadership. The American people deserve no less.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Griffin's comments are strange, considering that a NASA study says that temperatures will increase 10 degrees F by 2080 ( ). NASA is contradicting itself. I think Griffin is closer to being correct. There is not enough fossil fuel on this planet to cause a 10 degree increase. The real problem of the future will be peak oil.