NASA vs. Congress

NASA vs. Congress

NASA vs. Congress

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
June 12 2006 9:07 PM

NASA vs. Congress

We're a little heavy with NASA news this week, but it's not like I'm making this stuff up.

Now Congress is under fire for taking money away from NASA for pet projects. This is called pork barrel politics. Basically, Congress tells NASA they get X billion dollars for their budget, but Congress can also "earmark" that money, forcing NASA to spend it on certain things. Since NASA's budget isn't very large in the scheme of things, they have to take money away from important projects to fund the earmarks.

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This has been a thorn in NASA's side for a long time; Congresscritters wanting to build special projects in their home districts, or somehow use the money flowing through NASA to benefit their home turf. At some level this is understandable; Representatives are supposed to watch our for their district... but not at the level where it hurts NASA's mission!

So this situation is pretty weird. Congress isn't giving enough money to NASA in the first place, forcing NASA to cut vast amounts of science from its projects, and then Congress is earmarking money the money it does give, making less for NASA's projects. At least there's one fewer political appointee to suppress what science there is.

I really couldn't make this stuff up if I wanted to.