A funny thing happened on the way to the Moon…

Vse ThumbIt’s not that I enjoy saying “I told you so,” but President Bush’s lack of ability or (more likely) desire to forge any sort of bipartisan support for his Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) is really coming back to bite folks.

Let’s have a quick refresher, shall we?

The VSE was announced back in 2004, along with a pledge for yearly increases in NASA’s budget in order to pay for the development of new spacecraft to take astronauts back to the Moon, and later on to Mars. So much for the promise — when reality reared its ugly head, the budget increases didn’t come through (NASA’s budget has dropped since 2004, after accounting for inflation), but the NASA administrator is still pursuing the Vision he’s been directed to follow.

Predictably, the money had to come from somewhere, and much of it came from NASA’s science budget.

So now with Congress in the Democrats’ hands, if Bush wanted to really pursue the VSE, you’d think (or at least, I’d think) that he’d be sitting down with Congress to keep his proposal going. It didn’t happen, so some congress-critters sent Bush a letter, asking for a bipartisan discussion of NASA’s budget and priorities in space.

Not only were they denied, but Bush didn’t even respond himself — he had some folks a few levels down in the administration respond for him (and it only took them two months to do it). Oh, and the response letter also stated that the White House thinks NASA’s current level of funding is sufficient to do all it’s currently doing, as well as to aggressively pursue the VSE. For a guy who seemed to be all charged up about this three years back, he seems awfully bored by it now…

Anyway, Congress responded as you might expect — by directing NASA to spend no money on efforts specifically intended for manned Mars missions. Here’s the money quote:

NASA has too much on its plate already, and the President is welcome to include adequate funding for the Human Mars Initiative in a budget amendment or subsequent year funding requests.

No response from the White House to this yet — but the Mars Society has gone ballistic. In a post filled with exclamation! points! and MANY CAPITALIZED LETTERS, they label the House’s actions as an attack on Mars. As others have pointed out, it’s not the first time the Mars Society has gotten a bit… carried away.

A couple of things to note here:
1) As far as I can tell, NASA’s been doing little work that’s specifically directed at manned missions to Mars. Almost all the VSE work that’s under way should go forward unaffected by the latest shenanigans.

2) All Congress is really asking for is some sort of budget sanity (not that D.C. has seen it in years).

It should be interesting to see how this all plays out, especially with another presidential election coming up in a year and a half.

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