Wait . . . What?

That was my reaction upon reading that NASA’s primary goal is to improve relations with Muslims. 

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a recent interview that his “foremost” mission as the head of America’s space exploration agency is to improve relations with the Muslim world. 

Though international diplomacy would seem well outside NASA’s orbit, Bolden said in an interview with Al Jazeera that strengthening those ties was among the top tasks President Obama assigned him. He said better interaction with the Muslim world would ultimately advance space travel. 

“When I became the NASA administrator — or before I became the NASA administrator — he charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science … and math and engineering,” Bolden said in the interview. 

I always understood NASA to be about space exploration.  Maybe science and math inspiration came along with it.  Expanding international relationships?  Maybe for things like the space station, but that seems like a side goal, or a means to an end more so than an actual goal.  But to help the Muslim nations feel good about their historic contribution to science?  What the hell does that even mean?  How is it in our interest to give self esteem points to a religious or cultural group?  Particularly a group that tends to have a problem with trying to kill us?  And, even if it were in our interest, or anyone’s interest, why would it be up to NASA to do it?  I don’t even have an outrage about it; it’s just bizarre. 

Bush’s guy makes a bit more sense:

“NASA … represents the best of America. Its purpose is not to inspire Muslims or any other cultural entity,” Michael Griffin, who served as NASA administrator during the latter half of the Bush administration, told FoxNews.com. . . .

“If by doing great things, people are inspired, well then that’s wonderful,” Griffin said. “If you get it in the wrong order … it becomes an empty shell.” 

Griffin added: “That is exactly what is in danger of happening.” 

He also said that while welcome, Muslim-nation cooperation is not vital for U.S. advancements in space exploration. 

“There is no technology they have that we need,” Griffin said. 

The former administrator stressed that any criticism should be directed at Obama, not Bolden, since NASA merely carries out policy. 

So, what’s the White House have to say about all of this? 

The White House stood by Bolden on Tuesday. Spokesman Nick Shapiro said in a written statement to FoxNews.com that Obama “wants NASA to engage with the world’s best scientists and engineers as we work together to push the boundaries of exploration. 

“Meeting that mandate requires NASA to partner with countries around the world like Russia and Japan, as well as collaboration with Israel and with many Muslim-majority countries. The space race began as a global competition, but, today, it is a global collaboration,” he said. 

Bob Jacobs, NASA’s assistant administrator for public affairs, echoed that point. However, he said that Bolden was speaking of priorities when it came to “outreach” and not about NASA’s primary missions of “science, aeronautics and space exploration.” He said the “core mission” is exploration and that it was unfortunate Bolden’s comments are now being viewed through a “partisan prism.” 

First, I love how actual quotes are now a “partisan prism.”  Second, it seems like we’ve got one of two things going on, and I’m not sure which one is more troubling.  Either 1) We’ve got the head of a major federal agency going off half-cocked on an unfriendly television network and pandering to other countries by misstating his agency’s goals, or 2) the administration really is making a point of telling agencies to improve Muslim self-esteem, for reasons we can only guess.  Whether it’s the “primary goal” or not is unimportant; if Bolden is telling the truth here, the administration is obviously giving it a position of importance.  At best, this means that the adminstration has no concept of what the government’s, or it’s agencies’, proper role is and no sense of priority in a time of economic stress. 

Related: Ann Althouse says: “Oh, admit it! The point of science is to feel good about how we can do science.”

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