Space officials have reportedly told Congressional committees they can find most of the needed money by slicing $100 million or more from this program or that until the desired cuts are reached. Our feeling is that NASA should look very hard at terminating its two costliest programs, the International Space Station, now orbiting in a partially built state overhead, and the shuttle fleet that is being resuscitated to carry parts and astronauts up to the station. Those two programs eat up much of the NASA budget for little real gain.
The main reason for completing the station, aside from a stubborn desire to finish something once started, is concern that other nations collaborating on the station would resent being abandoned. Yet the same pressures that have led many Americans to consider the station a white elephant may also be at work abroad. It may be possible to persuade our international partners to accept some losses on the station in return for a truly important role in more visionary space exploration.
The one thing that has become apparent since
President Bush proposed putting astronauts on the Moon and Mars is that no such plan can gain momentum until the station-shuttle complex is shut down.
Despite the arrogant "royal we" used by the Times, the editorial makes sense. NASA has a history of pouring good money after bad. The Moon and Mars missions must take center stage, or we run a very real danger of seeing the first colony on the moon speaking fluent chinese.