NASA science still under fire

Contributed by
Mar 15, 2006
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... and scientists are firing back.

The huge cuts to NASA science were a hot topic at the Lunar and Planetary Science meeting I just attended. Mary Cleave, Associate Administrator for Science at NASA, gave a talk at the meeting. Unfortunately, I had to leave ten minutes in to catch my flight, but others are talking about it:

Basically, the scientists were good and truly ticked off, as well they might be. Two quick quotes:

Europeans are very upset that NASA missions with European partners were canceled without consultation with those partners. From the Astronomy magazine article:

Cleave said NASA would begin a series of talks with international partners, to which [European scientist] Neukum [an American scientist who works with Europeans] * replied, "One would hope there's going to be some listening in there, too."

But my favorite is

"I don't understand why you're so angry," said Cleave.

... which I think is a major part of the problem.

I have quite a few thoughts about this as well, as you might imagine. I find myself agreeing for the most part with the scientists quoted in those many articles. I am still gathering my thoughts for the moment, but I'll be writing them soon. In the meantime, I still have to think that asking NASA to go to the Moon, finish the space station, and still do world class science, all without substantially raising the budget, is a grossly unreasonable request by the Bush Administration.

The solution is obvious: give NASA more money. It is the smallest government agency, with the smallest budget, and even though the missions sound expensive, they are a drop in the bucket of the government's spending. But things are generally not this simple, and that's why my thoughts are still being gathered.

* Emily Lakdawalla, who attended the talk, notes in the comments that Astronomy magazine had the quotation attribution wrong. Tip o' the space helmet to Ms. Lakdawalla for that.