I’m a little confused.
Maybe there’s something I’m missing, but I’m not sure why having the single common trait of being good at winning elections makes a group of accountants, lawyers, economists, MDs, real estate agents, jet pilots, and reporters suddenly qualified to determine the validity of space missions.
Sarcasm aside, I realize that congress (and thus elected congressmen/women) is in charge of government spending and thus should have oversight over where that money is spent, and this includes NASA (a thorny issue for another time in and of itself.)
However, it is absurd that the committee demands justification for each individual technology milestone in a proposed mission that will take more than a decade. It boggles my mind – the arrogance to render judgment on whether NASA is pursuing the “right technologies.” The timescales and revolutionary nature of the technologies make it so that their values/challenges can’t be fully anticipated a priori by anyone.
While politicians do have qualified advisers,
A) The politicians still get to make the final decision. Thus, unless their advisers are REALLY good at explaining things and the politician really cares, the decisions are based on imperfect understanding by someone with very little skin in the game.
B) The cynical side of me assumes that politicians often choose advisers who confirm their priors.
A related aside: The government has no incentive to make it easy for the voting public to care and participate in these issues. Even if I wanted to be an informed citizen and watch the two-hour hearing (I did), they are so lazy that they just archived the unedited stream (half of which is literally a still image of the capitol dome during the pre-meeting and recess.) There is no way to download it or jump to a non-buffered part of the stream that lives on a very slow server. During my first attempt at informed citizenry, the buffer crashed my computer. The second attempt got me one-and-a-half hours in before there was a momentary Internet interruption, stopping the stream, and forcing me to buffer the video from the beginning or just give up. (I did the latter.)