The New NASA, as reported in the San Francisco Examiner,NASA’s new mission: Building ties to Muslim world, seems to have three missions: inspire children, expand international relationships, and reach-out to the Muslim world. The unanswered question is whether NASA’s new missions are an addition to, or a replacement of, existing NASA goals to “To understand and protect our home planet, to explore the Universe and search for life, and to inspire the next generation of explorers… as only NASA can.”
But as interesting as it was to learn the NASA Administrator’s marching orders from President Obama, more interesting was the Administrator’s comments in Cairo about the new-found limitation of the United States’ ability to conduct beyond low-earth orbit human space exploration independent of other nations. In an interview with al-Jazeera (thanks go to SpaceFan for the link, NASA Administrator stated, “We’re not going to go anywhere beyond low Earth orbit as a single entity. The United States can’t do it.” From this, it would seem that the policy of the Obama Administration is U.S. human space exploration missions must be done with international cooperation, a dramatic change in space policy for the United States. And one that must come as something of a surprise to members of Congressional committees with oversight of NASA; NASA’s Administrator had not raised the inability of the U.S. to independently explore beyond low-earth orbit in prior testimony before Congress.
Bolden’s admission that, at least from the perspective of the Obama Administration, the United States is no longer capable of beyond low-earth human space exploration would seem to give credence to the words of Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong when he noted that the Obama human space flight plans, as proposed in NASA’s Fiscal Year 2011 Budget, were “…likely contrived by a very small group in secret…” and are a “devastating” scheme that “destines our nation to become one of second- or even third-rate stature.”