The asteroid return strategy

Marcia Smith writes in concerning NASA’s asteroid return mission unveiled in the President’s budget for fiscal year 2014:

All in all, however, the White House and NASA may be exacerbating the challenge of winning support from Congress and other stakeholders. Some officials are using imprecise terminology, there is confusion over the relationship of this mission to protecting Earth from asteroids as well as why about humans are needed to bring back a sample of an asteroid when NASA already is building a robotic probe (OSIRIS-REx) to do that (not to mention that Japan already has done so and is planning a second mission), and the budget is murky in the short term and lacks credibility for the long term.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said it seemed to him that the mission was “an afterthought” when the original mission did not win support. NASA and the White House will have their hands full trying to dispel that characterization, but Gerstenmaier’s presentations may be a step in the right direction.

To put it mildly, we have a lot of challenges before us to make this initiative a success. If the simple things such as consistency in terminology are proving to be difficult, I am very concerned about the harder things to come.

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