I find it deeply amusing seeing how some people who support the ESAS approach to returning to the Moon tend to get so hopping mad over congressional earmarks. The logic goes that all of these earmarks set aside for pet projects of various congresscritters takes money away from real space exploration and real space science.
I guess I actually agree with that logic. Earmarks for the most part are a bunch of wasteful pork projects that do nothing to aid in the actual exploration and development of space. The problem is that most of the ESAS implementation so far has been little better than overglorified earmarks. What else can you call it when NASA refuses to get out of the Earth-to-Orbit transportation business, and instead gives billions of dollars to ATK and the likes to build a launch vehicle based on an oversized bottle rocket? Even hardcore supporters of the current ESAS approach have had to fall back to arguments about the “political realities” of why we need to blow several billion developing Shuttle Derived vehicles. That my friend is an earmark. A political giveaway to congresscritters whose votes are important to getting NASA funding that really have nothing to do with creating a sustainable off-world economy that helps foster the exploration and settlement of space.
Then there’s this whole garbage about pulling most of the RLEP program over to MSFC. It’s so obvious that this was entirely politically motivated, and had nothing to do with the actual succesful implementation of the program. It’s little more than yet another earmark for Alabama.
In both cases, NASA had much more cost effective alternatives, that would have actually been much more effective at accomplishing their actual goals, but they chose the route of political least resistance.
So, when I hear people moaning about earmarks on one hand, but on the other loudly championing big, wasteful, NASA-run projects whose sole purpose is to spread pork in various congressional districts (ie to meet “political realities”), I have a hard time taking them very seriously.