There’s nothing to see here, keep looking up
On May 25, 1961 President John Kennedy delivered a special message to Congress that challenged the nation to land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth by the end of the 1960s.
Eight years later, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the surface of the moon.
During that decade NASA became a symbol of American ingenuity and determination as is battled its counterparts in the Soviet Union for space dominance.
The Soviets dominated the space race for years, sending the first satellite into orbit, but the first man in space and had the first man complete and orbit of Earth.
NASA was not deterred and to this day it is the only organization to send men to the moon.
A few weeks ago Charles Bolden, the main administrator at NASA was quoted in an interview revealing the missions President Barack Obama wanted him to pursue during his administration.
“One, he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math; he wanted me to expand our international relationships; and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering,” Bolden said in the with Al-Jazeera.
This quote created a bit of an uproar and both NASA and White House spokespeople quickly said Bolden misspoke. One of the spokespeople said that nobody in his or her right mind could possibly think Muslim outreach is the top priority at NASA.
As true as that assessment is, the real question is why is it a priority at NASA at all?
Two of the three items listed by Bolden should not be a concern of NASA.
It is not NASA’s responsibility to expand international relationships — that is what the State Department is for.
It is not NASA’s responsibility to make other nations, religious sects or anybody feel good and warm about their contributions to science, math and engineering. Sure the Arab world made great strides in celestial navigation — without which traveling to the moon would be nearly impossible — but that was during the middle ages.
Should NASA build up the confidence of British citizens because Isaac Newton developed calculus, which is fundamental to racket science? No.
NASA should focus on space exploration. It is what it was created for. If it does that job then the goal of re-inspiring children to get excited about math and science will take care of itself.
As a child I loved to watch space shuttle launches. I eagerly awaited the never before seen images of Uranus and Neptune.
I watched the evening news during the early 1990s in hopes that the repair mission of the Hubble Space Telescope would be successful so I could see photos of distant galaxies I would never have seen if the mission were a failure.
NASA should be an explorer, not an ambassador.
Why after so many successful years of looking towards the heavens should it switch its glance to an all too familiar Earth?