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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in Hot Water Over Ethics Issues? September 26, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in : Charles Bolden, ethics, NASA, National Space Policy, Obama , add a comment

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is starting to find himself in hot water with the Obama administration after a series of ethics issues, it seems:

“Administrator Bolden continues to be not only a distraction for the administration, but most importantly to the mission of NASA.” -Unnamed Obama administration official, “NASA Administrator draws an ethics reprimand”, The Orlando Sentinel

“The president takes the ethics pledge and the commitments made by appointees who sign it seriously, and any breach of the pledge is very disappointing.” -White House Spokesman Nick Shapiro, “NASA Administrator draws an ethics reprimand”, The Orlando Sentinel

It’s generally difficult to be reprimanded much more than that. Distraction to the mission of NASA?

As Space Politics notes, Bolden was cleared of legal violations in regards to his communication with former employer Marathon Oil, but that his actions were found to not be consistent with the administration ethics pledge (referenced by spokesman Nick Shapiro above).

Comments by Bolden earlier this summer about outreach to Muslim countries being one of his “foremost” tasks and general controversy over the new direction of NASA have not helped his cause at an important juncture for Obama’s vision for space.

With a busy year for Obama, this could well mean there’ll be a change to a less ‘distracting’ administrator in the near future, perhaps once the House and Senate compromise bills are settled one way or another. Obama seems to dictate space policy fairly closely regardless (his 2008 campaign space plan having a lot in common with the later findings of the Augustine committee), so a change in administrator may not make much of a difference in the momentum of NASA, and potentially happen that much sooner because of it.

A Review of "Moon", Part 2: Lunar Ethics July 21, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : ethics, Lunar conservation, space conflict, space law , add a comment

This is Part 2 of 2 of my review of Duncan Jones‘ film “Moon“, starring Sam Rockwell. Part 1 looks at the film, while Part 2 discusses the lunar colonial topics that the film brings up.

While a great piece of sci-fi for anyone, this film also does a tremendous job bringing up lunar colonial topics, and serves as something of a warning about the way things could play out.

Before getting into the details, I first gotta give props to the intro: the film starts out with a mini-commercial by Lunar Industries, the main character (miner Sam Bell)’s employer. It describes fusion power, and how at the time of the film power concerns are a ‘thing of the past’ due to the efforts of miners (like Sam) collecting helium-3 on the Moon. I was pleasantly surprised to see such a detailed and up-front look at fusion power within the film; I would have been happy with a passing comment, but this not only sets the film up well, it also augments public media and knowledge on the subject significantly (a mini Convenient Truth :) ).

The really significant discussion brought up by the film, though, is on lunar ethics.

With such a lucrative and important operation, our main character (without delving into spoilers too deeply here) ends up being abused as a worker to a level bordering slavery. His employer is shown as being unscruplously concerned with the bottom line, at a severe expense to Sam Bell’s existence.

While the form of abuse has a high-concept sci-fi bend to it, the attitude of his employer is something that will be very real. Not immediately, perhaps; the initial companies and governments embarking on colonization over the next 10-15 years will be at least in the spotlight enough to enforce noble behavior, if not intrinsically noble of heart and intention.

The bottom line is that moon operations will be costly, if lucrative, ones. Every frontier in man’s history has had its share of unscruplous actions, especially post-industrialization. The moon, in particular, is both distant and apparently desolate. Therefore, as moon colonization becomes more commonplace over the 2020’s and 30’s, companies may start to think they could get away with dumping waste; sub-par tourist safety; bad labor policies; sabotage; and any other assortment of ills, with little or no concern for the health of future colonists or socio-political ramifications.

The most lasting impact of this film may end up being its prescience: a watchdog film that can be utilized in the future by the public, as something to point to for prevention of deeds such as Lunar Industries’ in the film. The themes can be applied to corporate behavior and past eras in general, but our era is the lunar colonial one, and this film is going to be an extremely valuable entry of pop culture to wield in the future as lunar law,governance, and other socio-political aspects begin to take shape.

Unscrupulous behavior can be prevented with measures in place, and “Moon” will be useful in illuminating ┬áthe challenge and its importance. And what better film is there than a useful one? I couldn’t be more glad to see that this film (and to a lesser extent, WALL-E) is bringing up these subjects before they become out-of-control problems, and before great injustices to the future of the Moon are done :)