Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has been spoiling for a fight with NASA administrators every since GOP triumphed in the elections last fall. He has taken the helm of the Senate subcommittee that overseas NASA, which flies under the awkward moniker of the Space, Science, and Competiveness Subcommittee. Cruz has made clear when he took over that he wants a "more space, less earth" agency, as recounted by the National Journal. and is pressing that point in hearings.
With NASA administrator Charles Bolden on the hot seat before the committee, Cruz pounced.
Cruz pointed to a chart behind him titled "Focus Inward or Focus Outward? Refocusing NASA's Core Priorities" that compared NASA's budget in 2009 with the current request. He said that since 2009, funding for Earth sciences has seen a 41 percent increase, while funding for exploration and space operations, what Cruz "would consider the core function of NASA," has seen a 7.6 percent decrease.
"In my judgment, this does not represent a fair or appropriate allocation of resources, that it is shifting resources away from the core functions of NASA to other functions," Cruz said. "Do you share that assessment?"
NASA administrator Bolden thoughtfully considered the question, despite objecting to the "chartsmanship," and discussed manned missions to space in NASA plans in the near future. But it's well known that Cruz doesn't accept the reality of climate change. Cruz continued to press for his space agenda, implicitly dismissing NASA's huge and deeply considered investment in satellite technology to better understand the earth and what's happening to it.
Eventually, it appears, Bolden snapped.
"We can't go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater and we don't know it—and that's understanding our environment," Bolden said, alluding to the risk that climate change poses to the low-elevation state of Florida. "It is absolutely critical that we understand Earth environment because this is the only place that we have to live."
[well — yeah. Round One to Charles Bolden and NASA]