I starting writing about this last night on The Feature, but I’m still finding myself actively irked, so I’ll use my blog to blather on.
In order to fund Bush’s PR campaign for space – a series of pointless but publicity-rich manned flights to the moon and Mars – NASA will have to abandon the Hubble telescope. The shuttle mission to do routine maintenance and battery replacement has been canceled, and the telescope has been slated to die sometime in 2007.
Perhaps NASA’s single greatest exploratory achievement, the Hubble has been sending images of the universe back to earth, wirelessly. This means that there doesn’t need to be people out in space looking through the Hubble’s eyepiece. No, computers and transmitters are used so that scientists and astronomers can relax here on earth and analyze them, rather than spend the money to live out in space while they are collected.
But I suppose such virtual presence in space still doesn’t feel real enough to Bush to justify Hubble’s existence. In spite of the fact that its images have been responsible for radical reappraisals of our understanding of the formation and creation of the universe (or, come to think of it, maybe it’s *because* Hubble has been responsible for radical reappraisals of the formation and creation of our universe), Hubble will be scrapped.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have put that part in parentheses, because it’s at least partly at the core of what’s going wrong in America under his leadership. We tend to do things that people can rally around, ignorantly if need-be, rather than things that make any real difference. This is because people who believe that human actions can make a real difference tend to be people who believe in evolution.
People who don’t believe in evolution tend to believe that things pretty much remain the way they were created. Our only choice is to generate faith and enthusiasm for the Master Plan.
Scrapping space exploration and analysis of the history of time in favor of Man In Space gestures is symptomatic of the latter view.
I’m as much a fan of human space travel as the next guy. It’s very cool, indeed. But perhaps our scientists should have some say in the way our space exploration dollars are spent. The best photo-ops for Bush and his astronauts may not turn out to have been the best photographic opportunities for the people truly charged with understanding space.