NASA may have a new lease on life now that Congress has allocated more than $18 billion to fund the development of new rockets that will help the agency reach the moon.
At a time when talk of spending cuts and of a national debt crisis, the extra expenditure stands as yet another monument to the influence of lobbyists and unions on Congress.
Fox News reported this week that the funding for NASA was included in the so-called 2011 budget compromise bill that was first thought to have cut federal spending, but later proved to be what some consider a smoke and mirror show that did nothing but result in net spending increases and fund new rockets for a canceled moon project.
Examination of the deal by the Congressional Budget Office revealed that the actual cuts were about $300 million, but late breaking details of the plan after it became law were interpreted by some as suggesting that the spending cuts were actually spending increases. Regardless, the $18.45 billion for NASA is a windfall that many analysts didn’t seem to anticipate.
According to the Seattle PI Web site, a mandate attached to NASA funding requires the agency to spend a minimum of $3 billion on a new heavy lift rocket that will be enough to land astronauts and their equipment and supplies on the moon.
This provision came at a surprise because Obama canceled NASA’s moon project last year, changing the mission of NASA to one of international Muslim relations rather than space as was reported by many media outlets including the Washington Examiner.
Taxpayers for Common Sense, a citizens group working to limit federal taxation and to lower the national debt and federal spending, says that the cost of manned space flight is too high for a country teetering on insolvency like the United States to stomach.
In spite of the need to get the federal financial crisis under control, the lobbyists for big space contractors including Alliant Tech, Boeing and Lockheed Martin reportedly applied massive pressure on politicians to keep their government-dependent unionized shops busy with new projects.
The Seattle PI story pointed out one peculiarity that characterizes much of the way the US Government operates. NASA has spend more than $21 billion developing programs that have been canceled, a possible sign that in spite of the billions of dollars spent on new rockets, the US may never return to the moon again.