NASA chief backtracks on Muslim outreach programme -

NASA chief administrator and ex-astronaut Charles Bolden is backtracking furiously after apparently mistaking Muslims for aliens.

In an interview last week, he told Arab news agency Al Jazeera that when he took up the job, president Barak Obama had told him that one of his most important tasks was to connect and communicate with the Arab world.

"Perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with predominantly Muslim nations," Bolden explained.

Apparently Obama wanted them to "feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering."

Since then, though, it seems someone's had a little word.

NASA assistant administrator for public affairs Bob Jacobs was forced to explain in a statement: "Administrator Bolden understands that NASA's core mission is exploration, both in space and in scientific endeavours here at home."

The reason for Bolden's suggestion may be that he's feeling a little short of things to do at the moment. Obama has slashed the US space program, scrapping the space shuttle and replacing it with plans to hitch rides on Russian and commercial spaceships in a sort of block-booking taxicab deal.

Boden's probably just bored with making paperclip chains.

But, if true, the idea of greater outreach to Muslim nations would have been a very interesting one. Briefings from NASA aren't usually the way that Muslim nations find out about the US' rocket capability.