Watch this video on Owen Bonnici’s Facebook page.
This fuss fest would have made Leni Riefenstahl proud. And it likely cost a pretty penny. It obviously also made TVM headlines. The national broadcaster reported this “news” breathlessly pushing up the bar to a point where it will be very hard for them to emphasise enough the importance of the real news when they find out Owen Bonnici is himself from space.
All this drama is in the service of an announcement of a €75,000 grant to the University to fund a science project by the space science department. I will not go into the merits of the usefulness or otherwise of the project. I’m not competent to do so and objecting to public spending on research from the point of view of poor understanding of what it’s for is the last thing I want to do.
But €75,000 in space research is unlikely to buy us life-changing findings. The sum is puerile and however disproportionate the return on this investment will be, it is not indicative of any government commitment to research and development at all.
Nor does it seem to fit within any form of national research strategy, space or any other form. To justify the expense in this advertising video Owen Bonnici recalls his boyhood sci-fi magazines to explain to people he must assume are even more clueless than he is how communications satellites work. Incidentally, as far as I can ascertain, communication satellites appear completely unconnected with the initiative.
Consider the dissonance. The scientist – Kristian Zarb Adami – says his study will allow him to take samples and readings on the chemistry in the atmosphere above Malta. Fair enough.
The politician – Owen Bonnici – speaks about space as “an opportunity for the development of humanity”, chatters about communication satellites, national security and a future space strategy. He’s one step short of Kennedy’s state of the union.
The gulf between Owen Bonnici’s ambitions and his abilities grows ever wider.
Owen Bonnici is not going to conquer space with €75,000. At most he can conquer voters who think he might. The more these people take themselves seriously, the more ridiculous they look.