NASA Suffers Another Blow To Its Mission To Protect The Planet

07/24/2006 03:00 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's not a presidential duty to fundamentally alter the mission of government institutions to conform to an ideological agenda or for the benefit of wealthy donors and industry buddies. Yet time and again, President Bush has done exactly that.

The latest example comes at NASA, where the White House has quietly altered the mission statement of this 48-year-old agency, eliminating language describing the most important aspect of its critical work -- "to understand and protect our home planet."

It's truly chilling that they would do this thinking that nobody would notice. Fortunately, Andrew Revkin of the New York Times did notice and it landed on the front page of the paper Saturday.

Since the quiet change to the mission statement was made in February, funding for research of our home planet has continued to disappear from NASA's budget as Bush puts increased emphasis on returning to the Moon and putting men on Mars.

Is it acceptable to the American people who subsidize NASA's work that the care of our planet is no longer considered important?

NASA scientists have been repeatedly betrayed by this White House, which has run roughshod over their scientific pursuits and replaced them with political pursuits, military-minded space pursuits and, most dangerously, delaying a strong response to global warming from our government, despite the urgent warnings coming from NASA's own scientists. Recent research from NASA's Goddard Institute Director James Hansen indicates that we may have less than ten years to stop global warming before it's too late. Hansen has fought courageously to keep the administration's muzzle at bay and convey this vital information to the American people. But with this latest attack on NASA's mission statement and its budget, the job just got a lot harder.

What kind of message is this for the 19,000 employees of NASA who were not consulted on this and are just finding out now that the mission of the institution they work for no longer includes the protection and care of planet Earth? What is the message to the American people? What should be our response?