I like to think I’m more plugged in to science news than the average person, but I don’t think I’m plugged in so much that I believe that NASA had this glorious a year.
NASA in 2010 set a new course for human spaceflight, helped rewrite science textbooks, redefined our understanding of Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor, put the finishing touches on one of the world’s greatest engineering marvels, made major contributions to life on Earth, and turned its sights toward the next era of exploration.
“This year, NASA’s work made headlines around the world,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “More importantly, it enlarged our understanding of the universe and our home planet, inspired people, and opened new frontiers for our dreams and aspirations.”
“NASA achievements this year across the spectrum — from science, to aeronautics, education and human spaceflight – provided incredible value to our nation,” NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. “We continue to build upon our rich history, taking on new challenges and doing the things that no one else can do — all for the benefit of humanity.”
The agency lists its big accomplishments at the link. I invite you to give them a good look and decide for yourself if the NASA that once put human beings on the moon should be praising itself quite so much for visiting a space station in low Earth orbit a few times. That’s not exactly something I would crow about, not if I just killed the Space Shuttle, thus ensuring that the only way America will get people into space is to hitch a ride with someone else. It’s also worth remembering that the NASA story that got the most press this year, by a long shot, was when Charles Bolden told al-Jazeera that that none of his agency’s three main tasks, as given to him by the President, involved actual science or spaceflight but that they did include making Muslims feel good about themselves.
NASA could have legitimate swag. No agency can take us to the moon, push back our frontiers, and give generations of children dreams that will carry them to heights they would not otherwise reach. Charles Bolden knows this; he used to be an astronaut. It’s a shame that he’s decided to swagger over so little.