by Allen Herbert
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s recent interview with Arab television station Al Jazeera has received a lot of very negative press coverage. Bolden’s comments that President Obama, upon nominating him to head the nation’s space agency, advised him to make ‘outreach to the Muslim world a foremost priority’ has sent conservative talking heads and anti-Muslim fear mongering media outlets into a frenzy. The problem that I see with how they are associating a noble idea with their views on periphery issues is the blatant racism that is being spewed from various sectors regarding Bolden and his statement. This is an area in which we all need to be careful.
We all know that the rest of the world is getting more involved in the exploration of space. The clearest example of that is the International Space Station. Many people around the world have contributed to science and math from Africa, Europe and Asia. We would not have rockets or gunpowder if it were not for the Chinese. Many of the first advances in math and science can be traced back to the early Egyptians in Africa. No nation, ethnicity, or religion has the monopoly on invention. Additionally, we cannot discount the contributions of people from all different types of ethnic and religious backgrounds have made to space innovations and scientific research.
The issue here seems to be more about how the White House and NASA’s message is being mired in with the political agenda and never-ending fiery debate over radical Islam, two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s relationship with Israel and our issues with Iran. All countries and areas of the world should be and are involved in international space exploration and research. The United States has always engaged countries in its space program as well as science outreach. Space is not to be limited to just Eurocentric countries. It is open for everyone to participate . Mr. President, what about a focus on countries in South America like Brazil or those in Africa like Nigeria or South Africa being foremost in our efforts for outreach. After-all they do have some of the most advanced programs of any other developing nation in the world, other than China, Japan and India (all industrial powers). But even before we can do that, NASA has to get its house in order. Meaning, NASA needs to develop a means to appropriately get its message out – starting at home first. The White House needs to be clearer on what their goals and objectives are for NASA… or issues relating to cultural outreach need to be explicitly dealt with within the State Department.
Allen Herbert, Vice President, JAKA Consulting Group. Allen is a graduate of University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aero-space Engineering, and a Government Relations/Business Development executive with 20+ years experience in business development, strategic planning, international business and technology projects. Prior to joining JAKA, Mr. Herbert worked for Computer Associates, at that time a $6.8B dollar multinational corporation with 17,000 employees. During his tenure, he started the government affairs area , where he was the liaison with the White House and the US Congress. He created strategic plans and capture strategy for Federal appropriations, most recently in areas of DOD, HHS, Homeland Security and IT programs.