Wednesday, April 21, 2010

NASA region 4

I woke up today with the news that the Mexican Congress approved the creation of the Mexican Space Agency (AEXA, for its initials in Spanish). I couldn't resist give my opinion on the matter. It sounds awesome in theory, doesn't it? Well, no, my actual first thought was: what the frak?

I must explain why that was my reaction. Mexico gives less than 1% of its annual income to the Science Council (CONACyT). Can you guess where is the money to fund the AEXA is coming from? Right, from that less than 1% as well. Meaning? CONACyT will get even less money to fund all other areas of science. As it is, right now, getting a grant funded through CONACyT is almost impossible, you have to submit 3-4 times and the most you can get is $100,000 dollars for a 3 year project. Compare that to $1 million dollars for an RO-1 funded through the National Institutes of Health, in the US. Add to that that any reagent or piece of equipment you buy from Mexico is at least twice the price as in the US.

Now, exactly how much of the starting fund of the AEXA will go to hire scientist? close to nothing! First they will need to hire a director (very likely a politician with only a Bachelor's degree), a speaker, an administrator, etc. All those people will come, no doubt about it, from the governing party and they will be brothers, sisters, neighbors, etc. of someone in a higher post at said party.

I have no idea if Mexico actually has people actually prepared to work in an agency like that. I know we have good engineers and physicists but, from that to quantic physicists and astronauts is a big leap. I just keep wondering; how long will it take for the AEXA to produce anything worthwhile? How much money will Mexico put in to produce something with the hope of some revenue? What will be the effect of the money that will be put into the AEXA on the CONACyT funding new scientists?

These are things that someone like me, who still had the hope to go back to Mexico to do science, has to consider.

I was going to provide a link to the English version of the AEXA site but, I'm actually embarrassed, they seem to have used Google translate to put that up.

5 comments:

  1. It does seem like throwing money down the drain that could be used for better purposes elsewhere.

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  2. I agree with NP. This sounds like a waste of fundage. I really don't understand why anyone should be focused on any kind of space program right now. Thats like driving a Lexus and pulling up to a box on the sidewalk.

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  3. Correct NP, and I didn't even touch the surface of it, I focused on the repercussions in Science but, what about using that money to improve National Security, there are people being killed every day by the drug cartels. There is a great lack of employment for professionals and this agency won't do any good if it's just another bureaucracy!

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  4. Exactly Lotus, good analogy. There are real necessities in the country, space is not one of them. I hope Pillownaut doesn't kill me for saying that :-P.

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  5. Maybe they could get Carlos Slim to fund the program. That way, it's better funded, and it's a write-off, all at the same time.

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