Exploring "Home Planet" No Longer Part Of MS
This just in -- NASA is
no longer in the business of protecting our planet. For the first
time since 2002, NASA's mission statement makes no mention of the
The New York Times reports that for the past four years, NASA's
mission statement read, "To understand and protect our home planet;
to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next
generation of explorers... as only NASA can."
Since early February, however, NASA's mission statement --
placed on all its budget and planning documents -- now reads "to
pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and
No mention is made of exploring... or protecting... terra
NASA spokesman David E. Steitz told the Times the change was
made to bring NASA's stated goals in line with President Bush's aim
for manned spaceflight to the moon and Mars -- but that explanation
isn't sitting well with many NASA scientists, who fear the omission
means NASA is no longer concerned with projects dealing with such
global issues as climate change, and greenhouse emissions.
“We refer to the mission statement in all our research
proposals that go out for peer review, whenever we have strategy
meetings,” said 25-year NASA veteran Philip B. Russell, an
atmospheric chemist at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field,
CA. “As civil servants, we’re paid to carry out
NASA’s mission. When there was that very easy-to-understand
statement that our job is to protect the planet, that made it much
easier to justify this kind of work.”
Furthermore, NASA researchers say the change was made without
consulting the agency's 19,000 employees -- an issue Stietz
attributed to NASA administrator Michael Griffin's
"headquarters-down" style of management.
“I don’t think there was any mal-intent or idea of
exclusion,” Steitz added.
That doesn't wash, however, with James E. Hansen -- the NASA
climatologist who in February claimed political appointee George Deutsch
threatened him for speaking out about the potential
dangers from greenhouse gases.
“They’re making it clear that they have the
authority to make this change, that the president sets the
objectives for NASA, and that they prefer that NASA work on
something that’s not causing them a problem,” said
Hansen, who directs the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, on the
new mission statement.