Not to go where no one has gone before, or even back to where we once were (the Moon). Nah, that’s small potatoes. According to NASA administrator Charles Bolden, President Obama has given NASA a new mission: making the Muslim world feel good about itself.
When I became the NASA Administrator — before I became the NASA Administrator — [Obama] charged me with three things: One was 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.
“Inspiring children” I can understand; when I was a child I found our space program immensely inspiring, especially that wonderful moment when we actually walked on another world.
But inspiring Muslim nations? Why is it the job of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to give self-esteem therapy Islamic countries? How does that relate to space? And isn’t that the job of those countries’ governments? Shouldn’t they be the ones to educate their own people honestly about their achievements? Of course, that would require not only looking frankly at past Islamic glories (many of which were the work of Jews and Christians kept as dhimmi peoples in the Islamic Empire’s early days), but also the fact that the Islamic world has been intellectually moribund for at least 500 years.
But that wouldn’t be good for self-esteem, would it?
Granted, I’ve come round to the idea that the private sector has a large role to play in space exploration and (particularly) exploitation, and there are promising elements to Obama’s vision of the space program, but if this is what NASA is to be relegated to, life-coach to the Islamic world, then just do the old horse a favor and put it out of its misery.
(To clarify, I think NASA still has a large role to play in space exploration in conjunction with private efforts, but that’s another post for another day.)
Meanwhile, where does this nonsense come from? As Byron York observes in the quoted article, this new direction for NASA flows from the President’s Cairo University speech of 2009, which was a model of fatuity. It’s the community organizer approach to international problems, in which “reaching out” and “respect” substitute for facing hard facts, and in which a mistaken assumption of common values misleads one to think that talking and extending an unclenched fist will bridge even the most fundamental, paradigmatic differences.
It’s also naive as hell, which leads to bizarre empty gestures such as this and which is why a once-great agency is reduced to playing international therapist.
UPDATE: Charles Krauthammer rips Bolden a new one. Via Newsbusters:
“This is a new height in fatuousness,” Krauthammer said. “NASA was established to get America into space and to keep is there. This idea to feel good about their past and to make achievements is the worst combination of group therapy, psychobabble, imperial condescension and adolescent diplomacy.“
Follow the link to see the video.