Billings: Space Science Is Not an Entitlement Program

Billings: Space Science Is Not an Entitlement Program

Linda Billings, a research professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, chastised the space science community for assuming that the work they do is an entitlement program.  She was “appalled” at a meeting this week of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) to discover how little those scientists understand about the basics of the federal budget process and their assumption that it is NASA’s responsibility, not their own, to justify spending on Mars exploration.

In a blog post, Billings recounts the history of the rationale for federal investments in “big science” and how the situation has changed since the end of the Cold War.  The aerospace community in general, she argues, needs to update its perspective on the cultural context in which federal spending takes place.  “In the space community, even today too many scientists who receive NASA funding for their work appear to believe that they are entitled to continue receiving the funding they want and that NASA is responsible for ensuring that they get their money,” she writes.

Space scientists need to learn about the federal budget process and advocate for their own programs, not expect that NASA will do it for them, she warns.  

Billings has worked in the space business for almost 30 years.  She is currently a principal investigator with NASA’s astrobiology program working on communications issues.

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