It’s not the end of the world as we know it, and NASA feels fine.
The National Space and Aeronautics Administration has come a long, long way under the stewardship of President Barack Obama. The agency was once a world changer that put humans on the moon, developed or encouraged technological innovation on a vast scale, and put a collection of telescopes into space that have fundamentally changed our understanding of the universe. It has long been my opinion that the Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer space telescopes are America’s answer to the pyramids of ancient Egypt and will stand the test of time as paradigm-altering pieces of technology and efforts to understand the nature of the cosmos. Long after we’re gone, people will still be learning from the data those telescopes have collected and delivered.
What has NASA done lately, though? Well, the Mars rovers and orbiters are amazing, but the fact is we can no longer even get humans to space without the Russians. And apparently we’re left to see the US space agency gloat over debunking something the Maya may or may not have believed hundreds of years ago.
This, I humbly submit, is sad.
I’m not blasting NASA here. I get what they’re doing with this video — getting into headlines on a story that millions are closely watching, and trying to do science in a cool way in a time when science just is not cool. The agency is doing its best to cope with an administration that has been hostile to its true mission of exploration, discovery, and keeping the United States ahead of everybody else and in the lead to keep hold of the highest hill available. Since its founding NASA has played a vital national security role. Obama tried changing the agency’s missions to some sort of Islamic outreach program, and has scuttled the shuttle fleet without a serious thought to advancing us toward the next human spaceflight platform. His campaign slogan was “Forward,” but under his watch the space agency has gone backward. This is a shame. The moonshot astronauts point out that we’ve lost a great deal of space flight talent along with these decisions, some of which will go into the private spaceflight industry and that’s good, but much of which will just evaporate. That’s not good.
But hey, at least we’ve proven the Maya were all wrong, or something.