Fox News Surrendering America: Does Space Matter Again?

Fox News ran a special entitled “Surrendering America” several times over the last weekend in March.  Three of the four segments covered control of the internet, defense spending and energy production, with the theme somewhat predictably being that under the Obama Administration, the U.S. is consciously “retreating” or failing to adequately protect its own interests in each.  The fourth and final segment examined space exploration in the light of U.S. dependence on Russia for rides to the International Space Station.

Several items about the report stick out, beginning with the fact that space exploration was selected in the first place.  Although irritation with Russia over the annexation of the Crimea was an undertone throughout the show, and thus the lead-in for the segment on space, the choice is an interesting one.  While the issue of of U.S. inability to access orbit for crew could easily fade along with the crisis in Europe depending on how events unfold, it could also signal something more, the emergence of leadership in space as a recurring theme in the upcoming election cycles. As a hugely influential media outlet, if Fox News elects to revisit the issue on a regular basis, it will undeniably have some effect on public perception.

Unfortunately, that perception is likely to be influenced by some very questionable opinions. Columnist Charles Krauthammer for instance, asserted that after President Obama cancelled Project Constellation “we now have nothing.”  In the process, he completely dismissed both the Commercial Crew program, as well as the Space Launch System.  While the latter in particular certainly has its share of critics, one might have thought that at least it warranted a some acknowledgment. More troubling was the ongoing inability of opinion leaders on the right to recognize the progress and accomplishments of NewSpace companies, and sometimes even their existence, or to discern that bloated, wasteful spending is not solely reserved for left leaning projects to which they are naturally disposed to dislike. Panelist George Will extolled the virtues of “enormous, wonderful telescopes” presumably Hubble, and perhaps Kepler, without pointing out the disastrous effect of budget busting programs such as the James Webb Space Telescope.

Another point is that other than being referenced as the destination for the $70 million Soyuz rides, the International Space Station also garnered no further mention whatsoever.  While it is a multinational project, there is no doubt that much as NASA Administrator Charles Bolden suggested last week,  it is one in which the U.S. is very much in a leadership role.  One could take the view that seeking to extend its lifetime to 2024, and thus a permanent U.S. presence in orbit, is a form of leadership as well, but this too went unmentioned. 

Also not discussed in anything other than an oblique observation that private companies were getting involved, the wild success NASA has enjoyed with the COTS and Commercial Resupply Programs, and the triumph of two American companies in achieving a resupply capability.

What should perhaps be of the greatest concern however, is what the four panelists, including two on political left, all agreed on.  The rapidly growing national debt coupled with a sluggish economy, is steadily sapping American capacity to exercise renewed leadership in space endeavors, even if doing so once again becomes a priority.

Posted in: NASA

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