NASA Outreach to Muslims

July 6th, 2010

By Tom Carter

Now and then I come across something that makes me mutter, “Now that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of!”  The latest addition to my “dumbest things” list, which has become quite long in recent years, comes from Charles F. Bolden, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

This particular example of dumbness came during Bolden’s recent trip to the Middle East to mark the anniversary of President Obama’s Cairo speech to the Muslim world.  Among other things, Bolden made a speech at the American University in Cairo and was interviewed by Al Jazeera.  One has to wonder why the NASA Administrator is following-up Obama’s speech to the Muslim world and being interviewed (video) by Al Jazeera.  Aside from that, the real problem is what he said.

According to one report, Bolden told Al Jazeera:

When I became the NASA administrator — or before I became the NASA administrator — [President Obama] 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.

Say what?  Which historic contributions was he talking about?  Even a Muslim website can’t come up with contributions in the modern era.  During the past however many centuries, the only significant contributions Arabs and Muslims have made to the world have been terrorism and extreme religious intolerance.  How can Bolden, a retired Marine general, look at Ground Zero and the 20 percent of the Pentagon blown away on 9/11 and say something so inane?

Another report states,

Later in the interview, Bolden discussed NASA’s goal of greater international cooperation in space exploration.  He said the United States, more than 40 years after the first moon mission, cannot reach beyond earth’s orbit today without assistance from abroad:

“In his message in Cairo, [Obama] talked about expanding our international outreach, expanding our international involvement.  We’re not going to go anywhere beyond low earth orbit as a single entity.  The United States can’t do it, China can’t do it — no single nation is going to go to a place like Mars alone.” …

“NASA is not only a space exploration agency,” Bolden concluded, “but also an earth improvement agency.”

At the risk of repeating myself, say what?  The only reason the U.S. needs other countries to be involved in space activities is because insufficient funding keeps NASA from being able to do the kind of job it did in the past.  Because of that and the desire to foster international cooperation, countries with the necessary technical capabilities have worked with the U.S.  Also, a few warm bodies from other countries have flown on the space shuttle essentially as passengers, mostly in the interests of diversity.  That’s fine.  But it’s a travesty for the NASA Administrator to claim that the U.S. can’t manage space exploration without the help of primitive Muslim societies (pardon the oxymoron).

As Charles Krauthammer said,

This is a new height in fatuousness. NASA was established to get America into space and to keep us there. This [Bolden’s comments] is the worst combination of group therapy, psychobabble, imperial condescension, and adolescent diplomacy.

Some might say that Bolden isn’t responsible for this latest explosion of stupidity.  After all, his boss, the President, told him that his foremost priority is to “reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good.”  As a Marine general, a former astronaut, and a long-time member of the NASA family, he should have stood up and told the President if that was to be his first priority then he didn’t want the job.  But, on the other hand, maybe he shares the President’s feelings.  In that case, all I can do is quote the great philosopher Forrest Gump:  “Stupid is as stupid does.”

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10 Responses to “NASA Outreach to Muslims”

  1. Clarissa |

    Is it possible that Bolden doesn’t realize how insulting this kind of paternalistic condescension must be to the Muslim people? He’s making himself look stupid to everybody. This is as silly as “reaching out” to Ukrainians by congratulating them on their successes in raising camels.

  2. Lisa |

    Tom, I find this story to be all at once stunning, comical and scary. Apparently, the White House is not disputing it. If the President is giving the Administrator of NASA a primary mission objective of reaching out to the Muslim world so that they feel good about themselves, how many other appointed officials under his administration are receiving the same mission guidance? It makes me wonder the real reason behind the difficulty in filling positions like the TSA and others. What is happening here? How big is this?

  3. Tom Carter |

    Clarissa, I don’t know if Muslims find it insulting, but as an American I sure do.

    Lisa, you make a good point. If an official as inappropriate as the NASA Administrator has been given that kind of guidance, then what have officials like the Secretary of State been told to do? Good point, too, that some potential appointees for offices like head of the TSA (one of whom we know) may have balked when told what was expected of them. And this may help explain the Administration’s really odd and negative policy toward Israel.

  4. Brianna Aubin |

    “If the President is giving the Administrator of NASA a primary mission objective of reaching out to the Muslim world so that they feel good about themselves, how many other appointed officials under his administration are receiving the same mission guidance?”

    I second Tom. That thought is officially creepy.

  5. d |

    Why do we,or anyone other than Muslims, give a rats rear how good Muslims feel about theirselves? Why does the administration have any part in how Muslims feel. Why on earth is Nasas priority Muslims?This is absurd and reeks of an underlying agenda. we need to get to the crux of this matter, before it is too late. I don’t really find it funny,but creepy and bordering on insanity. The word Nasa and Muslims, should never be spoken in any sentence,what is the point? Obviously we need nothing from them for space,unless,Obama is trying to tap into some oil money, for our space program. Do we really need to owe them,too?

  6. Dan Miller |

    Now, now folks. Don’t be hasty. This is all a well thought out plan the details of which (like Obamacare) will eventually be known.

    However, I can now reveal one of the heretofore undisclosed objectives. The intention is to develop an enormous spacecraft, or perhaps several, so Muslim-friendly that they will all gladly board for a trip to another planet. To do so, it is of course necessary to ascertain their likes and dislikes.

    Those who have read Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy five volume trilogy will recall in it the prophetic genesis of this plan and know that the Earth was populated countless milenia ago by useless beings from another planet in another universe who were persuaded that their world was in immediate danger of destruction and that they, the most productive members of society, would be sent off to save the race. They included members of various essential professions, such as telephone sanitizers, hairdressers, marketing executives, attorneys and the like. Eventually, on arrival on Earth, their descendants formed committees to work on such things as the development of fire; however, before they could proceed beyond the initial and most important stage it was necessary to appoint committees to decide what color the fire should be and how it could best be marketed, so that people would accept it.

    That’s pretty much the current NASA plan, as revealed to me by a confidential but very highly placed source.

  7. Dan Miller |

    Seriously though, this timely article deals well with the NASA opportunities. Sometimes the link works, sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work, try this:

  8. Dan Miller |

    Fortunately, this minor misunderstanding has now been rectified and we can all be absolutely certain that NASA was given no such task.

    White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that NASA Administrator Charles Bolden must have misspoken when he told Al Jazeera last month that one of his top priorities is to reach out to Muslim countries.

    “That was not his task and that’s not the task of NASA,” Gibbs said.

    That settles it for me, as it should immediately for all good people everywhere with the possible exception of Afghanistan, where dissemination of the truth may be slow due to a minor illiteracy problem since “Eighty-six percent of Afghan military recruits cannot read and write, according to the U.S. Defense Department.” Oh well; someday Mr. Gibbs’ clarification will be made known anyway.

    Mendacity has never been a characteristic of Mr. Gibbs, and certainly never of his boss. Retired Marine generals . . . . well, that’s different, of course.

    Wow! I was concerned for a day or three. Now I can go back to being joyous about the marvelous progress being made to restore the Gulf of Mexico to its earlier pristine state thereby averting a catastrophe.

  9. Lisa |

    I guess the retired Marine Corps general did not understand his mission. We should all sleep better tonight now that Obama’s press secretary has clarified the general’s misspoken words. No more nightmares of terrorists landing on the roof of my house from outer space.

  10. Aearlath |

    I just love how Gibb’s threw the poor NASA guy under the bus. That’s loyalty! 😉

    Really NASA has been so far off from being relevant it’s almost a lost cause at this point. What a shame too. NASA was what originally inspired me to get into the physical sciences. Then I got there and found out how bad things were at NASA. Oops. 😀

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