Does Obama’s New Budget Doom NASA?

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 27 2011 1:29 PM

Does Obama’s New Budget Doom NASA?

Artist's impression of the European Space Agency probe Rosetta with Mars in the background

Photo by C.CARREAU/AFP/Getty Images

In the Washington Times today, Robert Zubrin, author of The Case for Mars: The Plan To Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must, sounds a scientific alarm: The Obama administration plans to massively cut funding for NASA’s planetary exploration program. Zubrin writes that Obama’s 2013 budget would permit the continuation of a couple of projects—the MAVEN orbiter and the Mars Science Curiosity Lab—but would otherwise leave planetary exploration without much of a budget. The space astronomy program, too, faces deep cuts. This is “an offense against science and civilization,” Zubrin writes; slashing the budgets of the planetary exploration and space astronomy programs “portends the destruction of the entire American space program.” Without those two divisions of NASA, the agency will be weakened, vulnerable to complete elimination.

Zubrin vigorously disputes the idea that such cuts are necessary given the government’s financial straits. NASA, he says, “helps the economy through scientific discoveries, technological innovation and the inspiration of youth to pursue careers in engineering.”


Zubrin has elsewhere spoken in favor of private space entrepreneurship, saying in July, “NASA's astronauts have gone nowhere new since 1972, but these four decades of wasteful stagnation need not continue. If President Obama were to act decisively and embrace [private ventures], we could have our first team of human explorers on the Red Planet by 2016.” But his Washington Times piece makes clear that he still sees a role for NASA even if private enterprise enters space exploration.

Just last year, Obama told a space conference, “The bottom line is, nobody is more committed to manned spaceflight, to human exploration of space than I am.” He set ambitious space exploration goals, including a manned visit to Mars by the mid-2030s.

Read more in the Washington Times.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Photos of the Crowds That Took Over NYC for the People’s Climate March

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 22 2014 9:39 AM Adrian Peterson Has a Terrible Contract, and Cutting Him Would Save the Vikings a Lot of Money
The Eye
Sept. 22 2014 9:12 AM What Is This Singaporean Road Sign Trying to Tell Us?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 7:47 AM Predicting the Future for the U.S. Government The strange but satisfying work of creating the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.