Berkeley not impressed with Bush's Space plans... Apr 6, 2006 14:06:22 GMT -6
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Apr 6, 2006 14:06:22 GMT -6
Space agency's 2020 vision shortsighted, say Berkeley astronomers
"Returning to the moon is an important step for our space program," declared President Bush in January 2005, announcing his intention to "give NASA a new focus and vision for exploration" by putting Americans back on the moon by 2020, followed by the first manned mission to Mars. Months later, NASA's incoming administrator, Michael Griffin, vowed that despite the staggering cost of this bold vision — conservatively estimated at over $100 billion — not "one thin dime" would come out of his agency's budget for unmanned space science.
"Cuts for NASA are so huge over the next few years that they're scrambling to find money," says physics professor Robert Lin, SSL's director. "We're not the only ones who are going to have some problems. But for universities, it's the smaller missions that are really important."
Most worrisome for scientists at the Grizzly Peak lab are the deep slashes to the Explorer program, which physicist Janet Luhmann, an SSL senior fellow, calls "the bread and butter of university space labs." In addition to funding some of the lab's most high-impact projects — including the Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager, or RHESSI, which was launched into Earth's orbit in February 2002 to explore the physics of particle acceleration and energy release in solar flares — the Explorer missions often give students their first taste of big-time rocket science.
"While I understand that NASA is facing difficult budgetary decisions, and priorities must be set," Lin wrote, "it would be a severe blow to the community and damaging to NASA science to allow such a productive, high-leverage, and unique program to be so severely cut."
At a congressional hearing on NASA's budget, several members of the House Science Committee — including its chairman, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) — voiced their own concerns about the possibility, as Boehlert said, that "NASA has gotten it wrong by trying to preserve flagship missions while cutting smaller missions and research grants."
"I want to do everything in my power to protect NASA science," Boehlert declared.
More here: www.physorg.com/news63551698.html
I never held President Bush's space exploration plan with any value. But perhaps it's a spark that will encourage the next Presidents to really go for it.