Nature Magazine recently published a wide-ranging interview with John Holdren, President Barack Obama’s science advisor. Holdren made an admission about one of the reasons that the Obama administration canceled the NASA Constellation Space exploration program. While he claimed that the report of the second Augustine Commission stated that the program was “unexecutable” Holdren ignored the fact that the same report offered two alternatives for conducting deep space exploration, called Moon First and Flexible Path.

Subsequent studies by Next-Gen Space and MIT lend support to the lunar alternative The real reason that the Obama administration canceled Constellation was to free up more money for planetary science, robotic space exploration, and – most importantly – Earth observation.

Holdren was somewhat disingenuous as the Obama administration subsequently riled the scientific community by cutting spending on planetary science as well, abruptly and without warning pulling out of a joint Mars sample return mission with the European Space Agency.

But, the Obama administration has been quite lavish when it comes to spending on Earth science. Sen. Ted Cruz and some of the House Republicans noted this during hearings last year, eliciting scorn from the media and pushback from NASA officials such as space agency Administrator Charles Bolden. Republican lawmakers claimed that under Obama, NASA spending had become unbalanced in favor of Earth science which fit into its climate change agenda.

Holdren’s admission seems to vindicate Cruz and his fellow Republicans on the House side.

Obama space policy has featured, in the view of many observers in the media and Congress, a degree of deviousness and lack of transparency that is unprecedented in American history. When asked what the thinking was that led to the cancellation of Constellation, administration officials have refused to answer honestly, claiming that they are not required to respond to “process questions.” They have stuck to the line that human space exploration is too expensive to do in a timely and efficient manner.

In truth, as Holdren admits and many have suspected for a long time, the Obama administration had other priorities that did not include space exploration. It was dragged kicking and screaming to the Journey to Mars program, which remains underfunded and lacks a clear plan and direction. Sadly, it will be up to the next president to pick up the pieces and clean up the mess.

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