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« Pandemic Coming? | Main | Interesting New Startup »

Rough Week

I've been at meetings at NASA HQ all day (sorry, nothing particularly exciting) and I'm about to fly back to Florida for about ten hours, after which I fly to California for the afternoon, then to St. Louis for a weekend family wedding, leaving on Friday morning. Blogging is unlikely for a while...

I will leave you with this irritating vignette from the White House Press Corps, offered by Jeff Foust:

Q And how is the Mars program going?

MR. McCLELLAN: NASA can probably update you on the effort. Again, this is a long-term program, and you can sit there and smirk about it, but the President felt it was important -- (laughter) -- the President felt it was important to outline a clearly defined mission for NASA. And we're all excited about today's launch and we wish the --

Q Will he be speaking about it --

MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on -- we wish the crew all the best.

Q Will he be speaking about it --

MR. McCLELLAN: NASA is working on implementing it, John. Thanks for starting out the briefing on such -- (laughter.)

Wasn't that a knee slapper?

That dumb Bush and his fantasy mission to Mars. Yuk, yuk...

McClellan didn't handle this well. The response to the first question should have been: "To which Mars program are you referring?" (Thus offering the reporter an opportunity to be more expansive on his profound ignorance about national space policy).

After he did so, saying something like, "You know, the president's plan to send people to Mars decades from now," the response would be: "Well, John, how much progress would you expect this year on something that's not going to happen for decades? Do you imagine that that's the sum total of American space policy? Or haven't you been paying attention? Are you opposed to the nation having a long-term vision for space exploration?"

Yeah, I know that his job is to answer questions, not ask them, but still.

What's really annoying about this is that on one of the few times the daily White House briefing leads off with space policy questions (due obviously to yesterday's successful launch) there can't be an intelligent discussion about it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at July 27, 2005 03:12 PM
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Growing up in the 1960's, I was never impressed by the smarts of almost everyone reporting on NASA and space. I'm still not impressed. You don't need an engineering degree to know what Bush wants to do in space, and when. What did the reporter expect anyway: "Yes, the President is so excited about the Shuttle's successful launch that he's ordering NASA to stand down from all Mars exploration."??

In my neighborhood, the local TV guys are repeatedly running that clip of foam falling away from the tank while jabbering about the piece that came of the tile.

Posted by billg at July 27, 2005 04:05 PM

Of course, the people the press are laughing at is not the President and his staff, but NASA itself. The same organization the press was lauding just days before. That's why I try to stay consistent and realize that the typical journalist is just somebody who mistakenly thought their job was to "change the world".

I don't agree with Rand's response. The moment McClellan said "which Mars program", the press corps would have painted him as the ignorant one. If they already find this funny, they are not likely to be persuaded by attacking their intelligence.

Rand's bottom line is really the nut of the frustration.

Posted by Leland at July 28, 2005 09:19 AM

I realize that most folks in the press are probably decent, intelligent people. But it does seem that they sometimes deliberately fail to understand the most elementary things.

Anyway, thanks for keeping us informed, and please do post your insights on the current Shuttle situation whenever you are able.

Posted by Asher - Dreams Into Lightning at July 28, 2005 03:25 PM

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