The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Earth Science division and its “asteroid redirect mission” had taken a dose of heat from members of the Congress during the hearing for NASA’s 2016 budget. The Congress thinks that the idea of cutting a part from an asteroid and putting it in orbit around the moon for research purposes is “uninspiring”. The agency has urged to conduct studies on space instead of focusing on Earth’s climate.
Charles Bolden, a former astronaut and a retired marine corps general and currently NASA Administrator, has defended the division saying that the agency is not only concerned with the study of space, but also is responsible for the welfare of Earth and that understanding the only place we live in is of utmost importance.
Bolden defended the mission, saying that this mission will carve a path for Mars exploration and will test earth’s ability for Asteroid deflection.
At the mention of whether he supports reassignment of the Earth science research to other agencies, Bolden shied away.
Last March, Bolden had exchanged heated words with Ted Cruz, chairperson of the Senate Committee that supervises the agency, over whether or not at the moment NASA has lost its focus on its core mission.
Lamar Smith, Space Subcommittee chairperson, and other Republicans urged NASA to refocus the agency’s budget towards space exploration rather than Earth’s climate study. He and other Republicans had criticized the unbalanced increase in the agency’s Earth science studies. He stated that for a period of 8 years, there has been an addition of $2 Billion to the agency’s budget and the administration has been politically starving the agency’s space exploration funding in favor for some partisan environmental agenda. There have been as many as 13 other agencies responsible for climate change research while NASA is the only one responsible for space research. “NASA deserves better”, he said.
\Space missions can resume in 2017 if only the Congress provides funding and will stop paying to the Russian space agency for carrying out actual space missions, says Bolden. When Representative Dana Rohrabacher from 48th District of California suggested for outsourcing the agency’s Mars mission to private contractors, Bolden quickly shot down the idea saying that commercial companies will only go to Mars if there is government support and reliance on a private company for the mission will only slow the mission down.
It should be noted that the first objective of NASA’s charter is the “expansion of human knowledge of the earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space”.