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starship-design: Fwd: Politics in Space
Subj: Fwd: Politics in Space
Date: 96-09-25 17:52:04 EDT
To: Kelly St
Here's the article I mentioned... ---Kristin
Subj: Politics in Space
Date: 96-09-24 22:03:17 EDT
From: N Odin
Forwarded from James Oberg:
The Politics of Space
Alcestis "Cooky" Oberg
(published in the Houston Chronicle, Sunday, Sept. 22, 1996
@Alcestis Oberg, All Rights Reserved, 1996)
email : CookyOberg@aol.com
If you watch t.v., you'd think that President Clinton is doing a great job
with the space program. You'd see his administration basking in the glow of
the heroic "Apollo 13" movie. You'd see cheerful handshakes between Russian
cosmonauts and American astronauts. You'd see great excitement over the "life
on Mars" discovery. You'd think Bill Clinton loved and supported the space
And you'd be wrong.
To date, Clinton has been the worst president America has ever had in space
matters. For starters, you can forget about ever seeing people plant the
American flag on Mars in your lifetime. Last week, Clinton said Mars
exploration would be done by robots, not people -- a flip-flop that goes
against the steady commitment of six presidents over 36 years to manned space
exploration. Implicit in Clinton's shifted focus onto robotic exploration is
the cancellation of the space station and possible the whole manned program.
Why? The whole rationale for building the $120 billion space station and
maintaining an expensive shuttle transportation system is to prepare people
for long journeys in space. They are stepping stones to Mars and beyond.
But on space policy, Bill Clinton has no rationale or coherence. He hasn't
behaved like a president, but more like a child with a gun -- wantonly
shooting at whatever grabs his fancy, not knowing or caring about what he has
Let's look at the record: Far from supporting the space program as he had
promised in 1992, the Clinton White House tried to cancel the space station
within two months of taking office. Failing that, Clinton reduced the NASA
budget by 20 percent. He has laid off over a million high-tech workers in the
defense and space industries in his term, nationwide. Worse, he took an
industry in which America was pre-eminent -- aerospace -- and did what every
American hates most : gave U.S. hi-tech jobs and pre-eminence away to foreign
countries in the name of "friendship" and "cooperation."
Worst of all, the unctious, positive television images we see of Clinton
"supporting" the space program are the purest expression of presidential
hypocrisy, cynicism, and political media manipulation that I have ever seen.
Take, for example, the events surrounding the movie Apollo 13.
Prior its release, Clinton's NASA chief, Daniel Goldin, had called the
heroic spaceworkers who saved that mission "pale, stale males". Goldin
wanted a younger, more "politically correct" NASA to please his masters in
the White House. Even as he was pushing these brilliant, dedicated workers
into early retirement or sending out their layoff notices, Goldin basked
before television cameras and took credit for the glory of their Apollo 13
triumph. The hypocrisy was breathtaking.
Breath-taking also is the hypocrisy involved in the joint Russian/American
space ventures. The space program was reduced to a bargaining chip in
Clinton's foolish foreign policy game, and the NASA budget became the cash
cow of foreign aid to the corrupt Russian government of Boris Yeltsin. Under
the mantra of "saving taxpayer money" by working with the Russians, Clinton
and Gore handed $400 million of NASA's cash to the Russians for "services" it
didn't need -- money that would fund 400 years of the current "life on Mars"
research. Clinton and Gore also spent nearly $4 billion in unnecessary
shuttle launches and equipment to repair the malfunctioning, obsolete Russian
space station Mir -- enough to send 40 probes to Mars.
What does the United States get back? Television pictures and the opportunity
to have only four U.S. astronauts carry out experiments on Mir. The French
are paying the Russians around $60 million -- not $4.4 billion -- to do the
What are our congressmen doing about it? Prior to the 1994 elections,
nothing. However, many local congressional seats were re-arranged by
Houston's voters in the 1994 elections, and this was mostly for the good.
When Goldin hatched a stupid management restructuring plan last year that
would have moved 4000 jobs out of Houston to Alabama, Majority Whip Tom DeLay
did a brilliant job of blocking it.
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee was a refreshing change from all
her predecessors -- a strong supporter of the space program. Her sole flaw
seems to be that she is sometimes too focused on minority issues and not
focused enough on the serious employment implications of Clinton's foreign
Representative Ken Bentsen, on the other hand, has taken his cue
from the White House : he fights for the space program only when the cameras
are rolling, and misrepresents his support of Clinton's policies as being
"for" a strong space program.
The strongest space program supporter has been Representative Steve
Stockman. Despite the media criticism he gets on other issues, Stockman has
been a tireless advocate for space, and the most vocal opponent to the
wholesale export of aerospace jobs to Russia. And when Johnson Space Center
workers received a new and disturbing workers' agreement from the shuttle
prime contractor, Stockman voiced his constituents' protests to NASA chief
Goldin within 24 hours -- a responsiveness voters in the 9th congressional
district have never seen.
But the White House remains in control of space policy, and no matter what
our congressmen do or say, NASA will continue to be mired in Russian domestic
politics as long as Clinton holds office. A day doesn't go by in the space
program when the Russians aren't trying to squeeze U.S. taxpayers for more
money here or ignore their deadlines and obligations there. And that doesn't
seem to bother Clinton a bit.
The U.S. space job situation will get bleaker too. Right after this
November's election, a large aerospace facility in Downey, California --
employing thousands of space workers -- is being closed in the name of
"downsizing". And if the grapevine is correct, Clinton is handing 60-day
notices of lay-off to a large number space station scientists near San
Francisco : he's shipping their high-tech, cutting-edge jobs to Japan.
There is another secret plan -- only whispered before the election
-- that there will be an additional 25-30% across-the-board cutback,
resulting in several thousand more job losses in Houston.
Is it possible to sell out American aerospace workers more completely than
has been done in the last four years?
Is it possible to throw away American leadership and future interests in
space more relentlessly than Clinton and Gore have done with their foreign
If the space program is any indication of how President Bill Clinton builds
his "bridge to the future", America's future will built on quicksand. Or