According to a Tuesday story posted by NBC News, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden had a harsh and defiant answer to critics of the Obama administration’s abandonment of the moon in favor of an asteroid mission. “Get over it, to be blunt.”
Bolden said this during an address at the “Humans 2 Mars Summit” held at George Washington University. His speech was not only a full throated defense of the current exploration plan, which involves snagging an asteroid into lunar orbit to be later visited by astronauts in the 2020s before visiting Mars in the 2030s, but an examination of where we are now in regards to space exploration and a wistful look at the lean budgets NASA has been saddled with.
While Bolden suggested that having four percent of the federal budget, which NASA enjoyed during Apollo, was not in the cards, one percent would be great. Growing NASA from its current less than .5 percent to one percent has been suggested by celebrity physicist Neil degrasse Tyson. It would expand NASA spending from about $17.5 billion to about $37 billion.
Ever since President Obama publicly eschewed a return to the moon, originally planned under the Constellation program, the decision has come under withering criticism from a number of quarters, from members of Congress to Apollo era astronauts such as the late Neil Armstrong. At a recent conference, the policy came under assault from international partners and academia. In a critique of the asteroid mission, planetary geologist and lunar exploration advocate Paul Spudis notes that there has not be a rationale actually set down for the asteroid retrieval mission, except that it is “not the moon.”
The moon vs. Mars argument has racked the space agency ever since the end of the Apollo program. It should be noted that should Bolden and Tyson were to get their wish, NASA would likely have enough money to return to the moon and go to Mars roughly simultaneously. It would be a neat compromise between the two exploration camps.