- The Chicago Astronomer -
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Pasted below is the first paragraph of an article that appeared in today's New York Times. For the full article click the link that appears at the bottom.
NASA to Cut Back Scientific Missions Because of Budget
By DENNIS OVERBYE Published: March 1, 2006
Some of the most notable missions on NASA's scientific agenda would be postponed indefinitely or canceled under the agency's new budget, despite its administrator's vow to Congress six months ago that not "one thin dime" would be taken from space science to pay for President Bush's plan to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars.
Pasted below is the lead sentence to Reuters article on today's Congressional testimony by astronomers regarding NASA's budgets cuts for scientific missions. Underneath is a link to the entire article. _____________________
Bush budget imperils NASA's missions
By Deborah Zabarenko Thu Mar 2, 3:12 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration's focus on big, expensive space missions is starving budgets for some of NASA's most productive small-scale science programs, astronomers told the U.S. Congress on Thursday.
Here is the letter that I sent to the three members of Congress who represent me. __________________________________
Dear Mr. Durbin/Obama/Kirk,
I’m appalled that many of NASA’s planned scientific missions are being scrapped to pay for the administration’s ambitions to once again put men on the Moon and later on Mars.
Sending men to the Moon (been there, done that) and Mars are monstrously expensive stunts. That’s all. Astronauts may have been necessary to explore the Moon over thirty years ago. Since then, clever American engineers have figured out how to explore the depths of the ocean and the bodies of the solar system with robotic devices. These tools are relatively inexpensive and can extend our senses far more safely, quickly and effectively than with the outmoded use of astronauts. Someday humans may colonize other planets. But that is in the far distant future. Today we can best pave the way into space for our descendents by exploiting our currently most effective means: marvelous American built machines.
It would be greatly appreciated if government officials (including the president and members of Congress) would do a better job explaining to the public that 21st century technology has made astronauts obsolete. Instead, we get demagoguery from the president appealing to early 20th century romantic notions of fighter pilots morphing into Buck Rogers type space explorers. Let’s get realistic. If we’re going to spend tax dollars on space exploration, let’s do it with the awesome inventions produced by American ingenuity and not with daredevils performing pointless stunts.
My cousin, John Andelin, was the head of the science division of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. His agency was abolished as a “cost cutting measure”. In reality, I suspect it cut too much pork. John told me 20 years ago that manned spaceflight is tremendously more expensive than that done with machines, mainly because of the cost of redundancy (or perfection as he called it) for maximum safety. That’s not to mention the huge cost of life support systems. In testimony before Congressional committees, he stated that the International Space Station was feasible, but would he horribly inefficient and costly compared with mechanical alternatives. He has been proven right. Perhaps his agency should be reestablished so that it can provide wise counsel to Congress regarding the optimum methods for the future exploration of the solar system.
I welcome the use of my tax dollars for the scientific exploration of outer space with the use of robotic devices. I would hope that you will not join in a conspiracy to allocate a massive amount of federal funds for unproductive stunts by space cowboys.