New strategy: Space is only GOP business

Hidden in the background noise of world affairs leaking and being generated from the White House was the appointment and swearing in of Congressman Jim Bridenstine as new head of NASA, who said, “NASA represents what is best about the United States of America: We lead, we discover, we pioneer and we inspire.”

Lead? Yes, absolutely, but it depends on which direction. As a firm climate change denier, the ex-Congressman from Oklahoma, deeply funded by the oil and gas companies there and a close ally of Scott Pruitt (who sued the last Administration several times to reduce coal and oil pollution controls) — Jim Bridenstine has already signaled the demise of NASA’s environmental monitoring and reporting. That’s science he will want to avoid to prop up his personal beliefs that the climate is his deity’s domain, not man’s scientific fact.

Discover? Sure, especially when discovery and use of taxpayer dollars to explore the moon and asteroids will lead to business interests benefitting from our discoveries. As the holder of a BA in business and economics and, since elected in 2012, a strong ally of capitalism over state-run enterprises, he is sure to parcel out anything NASA discovers to business interests with strong lobbyists.

Pioneer? Well, certainly not anything to do with the non-conformist men and women who serve at NASA. As a staunch Mike Pence supporter and strongly anti-LGBT, he was appointed head of NASA by the Senate strictly along party lines 50-49 (McCain was ill and did not vote). Gay or lesbian space explorers or staff are unlikely to fare well under his control. Equal pay and promotion for men and women within NASA? Probably not on his watch.

Inspire? Absolutely, Wall Street is very pleased as officially, coupled with Pruitt at the EPA, he’ll stop environmental measurement and therefore scientific proof of damage done by global industries. 

Remember that NOAA relies on NASA satellite and flight observations for everything from hurricane predictions to flood and drought patterns. Cut back on environmental monitoring can be done with the stroke of his pen and he has already signaled NASA’s role is space, not earth science. And his partisanship is deeply troubling to some members of Congress who see lobbyists and members of his party reminding him he’s one of them and representing their interests.

Departed (ex-astronaut) NASA Administrator Charles Bolden put it this way (EOS News), “He would not have been my first choice because he’s a politician. 

And he is the first person, to my knowledge, ever selected from political office to become the NASA administrator. I don’t think it’s healthy for the agency to have someone who’s a partisan in that position.... And I think his history is such that he may find some difficulty in working across the aisle.” And other problems? “Gaining the respect of the workforce. That will be his number one challenge. NASA has a hugely diverse workforce, not just in race and gender, but in sexual persuasion...It’s a microcosm of the American populace, and some of its strongest workers and leaders are people who come from communities that he is on the record as not supporting.”


Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.