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Taxpayers deserve answers for $40 million NASA ‘conflict’

February 2, 2008
Shortly after the start of the new year, NASA announced that it will delay sending a space probe to Mars for two years and expects the cost of the mission to increase by $40 million because of an “unspecified conflict of interest” on a panel formed to chose some contractors for the program.

“This was not a conflict of interest that could be avoided,” NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Director Doug McCuistion told reporters. He did not elaborate — but he should.

Clearly, NASA officials just don’t want to talk about the problem. At first, McCuistion insisted that the cost of the mission would increase only “slightly” because the conflict forced NASA to form a new board to deal with contract proposals. Only after reporters pressed him did he admit that his definition of “slightly” is $40 million.

A conflict that costs taxpayers $40 million and delays a Mars probe by two years needs to be explained in detail.

Frankly, we don’t think NASA officials should be the people to judge whether the conflict could have been avoided. It’s our money, after all.

We’re paying — dearly, it seems — for the information.



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