Well, I wasn't going to vote for Barack Obama anyway, because I'm voting for Hillary Clinton, but this news that his education plan pulls billions of dollars away from our space program is going to leave me in a lurch if he becomes the democratic presidential candidate.
The shift from exploration to education came last week when Obama talked up his $18 billion education plan during a New Hampshire campaign swing. Actually, the reference to NASA comes at the end of a 15-page document laying out the details behind the plan (PDF file):
"The early education plan will be paid for by delaying the NASA Constellation Program for five years..."
The Constellation Program is NASA's $104 billion effort to send astronauts back to the moon in the 2018-2020 time frame, as an initial step toward wider space exploration and settlement. Although the policy paper doesn't lay out the figures, our own First Read political blog said Obama would keep Constellation on a $500 million-per-year maintenance diet during the five-year delay - with the implication that the timeline would be shifted to 2023-2025 for the first 21st-century moon landing.
The first years of an Obama administration would be particularly critical for NASA, because that's the time frame during which the shuttle fleet is due to retire. The schedule already calls for the space agency to hitch rides into orbit on other people's spaceships for up to four years, and if Obama follows through that gap could go for years longer - even assuming that Constellation goes into hurry-up mode if and when the budgetary spigots are opened wider.
USA Today quoted the Illinois senator as defending his plan to put NASA's vision on hold: "We're not going to have the engineers and the scientists to continue space exploration if we don't have kids who are able to read, write and compute," he said.
Um, we need to space program so that kids are working towards something, something to dream about and be inspired by. Not to mention that it's important to me because, yeah, I think we're not alone, and I want to get out there. And yeah, I think space is our future. And yeah, I really, really, really think we need to be a leader in space with other countries to ensure a positive future for our citizens as our world changes.
I think it's cutting off your arm to spite your face to fund education by cutting our space program.
Horrid, horrid plan, and I pray it doesn't ever happen.