The former head of NASA says the idea that the space exploration agency's priority should be outreach to Muslim countries is “deeply flawed” after current Administrator Charles Bolden made that assertion in an interview last month.
"NASA ... represents the best of America. Its purpose is not to inspire Muslims or any other cultural entity," Michael Griffin, who served as NASA administrator during the latter half of the Bush administration, told FoxNews.com.
Bolden created a firestorm after telling Al Jazeera last month that President Obama told him before he took the job that he wanted him to do three things: inspire children to learn math and science, expand international relationships and "perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering."
Officials from the White House and NASA on Tuesday stood by Bolden's statement that part of his mission is to improve relations with Muslim countries -- though NASA backed off the claim that such international diplomacy is Bolden's "foremost" responsibility.
Griffin said Tuesday that collaboration with other countries, including Muslim nations, is welcome and should be encouraged -- but that it would be a mistake to prioritize that over NASA's "fundamental mission" of space exploration.
"If by doing great things, people are inspired, well then that's wonderful," Griffin said. "If you get it in the wrong order ... it becomes an empty shell."
Griffin added: "That is exactly what is in danger of happening."
He also said that while welcome, Muslim-nation cooperation is not vital for U.S. advancements in space exploration.
"There is no technology they have that we need," Griffin said.
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