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Science Eviscerated In NASA Budget, Planetary Society call to action
Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Mar 29 2006, 06:56 PM
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Easterbrook was singing a similar tune back in his 1991 "New Republic" summary -- actually set up like an encyclopedia, in alphabetical order -- of "what's wrong with NASA". Readers of this blog will immediately notice some howlers he's committed in this new article, but the most important things he says are correct. More comments later.
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Guest_AlexBlackwell_*
post Mar 29 2006, 08:47 PM
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QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Mar 29 2006, 06:56 PM) *
Easterbrook was singing a similar tune back in his 1991 "New Republic" summary -- actually set up like an encyclopedia, in alphabetical order -- of "what's wrong with NASA". Readers of this blog will immediately notice some howlers he's committed in this new article, but the most important things he says are correct. More comments later.

Yeah, I just slogged through it myself. Typical Easterbrook piece, and some of the wording in the article is, to put it charitably, very sloppy.
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Mar 31 2006, 06:58 AM
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It's easy to jump on his factual errors (no unmanned U.S. Moon probes since Apollo; Triana would have been at an Earth-Moon Lagrange point). And there's his one really substantial error: his bizarre insistence that Solar System and extrasolar-planet missions are ALWAYS far more important than longer-range space astronomy and cosmology missions because they study things that are "reasonably close" to us and therefore "might have some effect on us".

But the fact remains that his main points -- the stupidity of Shuttle/ISS; the downright criminal stupidity of shorting space-based studies of climate and environmental changes -- are correct. And so is his argument that Bush's manned lunar program may be an even bigger boondoggle than the Station -- given the fact that any actual Moon base would certainly cost several times what ISS cost, and that the science from manned lunar exploration will be of interest solely to the extremely small flock of specialists in lunar geology (unless Moon-based helium-3 mining or solar-power station construction pans out, which is, to put it mildly, questionable without a lot of further ground-based study). If we're going to start develop manned deep-space ships to Mars or the near-Earth asteroids, we should start working directly on those and not be diverted by the Moon. Except, of course that -- as he says -- the manned program drags on owing to the desire of NASA, its contractors, and its home-district Congressmen and voters to keep bleeding off the money of other taxpayers.
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mcaplinger
post Mar 31 2006, 07:21 AM
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QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Mar 30 2006, 10:58 PM) *
the downright criminal stupidity of shorting space-based studies of climate and environmental changes...

I might be prepared to argue that satellites are a very cost-ineffective way to study most aspects of climate change, especially given the extreme difficulty of calibration and the relatively small effects they can see. To date, despite all the hoopla, has EOS delivered on many of its promises?

I'd be happier if the money was spent doing something about the obvious reality of climate change, rather than studying it from orbit. Not that that's likely given the current administration.


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Disclaimer: This post is based on public information only. Any opinions are my own.
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Mar 31 2006, 07:53 AM
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I've always heard that satellites are absolutely crucial to separate local changes from global changes in climate-change observations. Consider the fight, lasting for years now, over whether weather balloons really provide adequate data on changes in global atmospheric temperature -- or the fact that, until ERBS went up, we couldn't even answer such an obvious question as whether the current cloud cover is warming or cooling the planet. (Also note that one of the main arguments being used by the remaining skeptics is Richard Lindzen's belief that previous satellite observations of the Pacific have shown a cloud-related negative-feedback effect that he thinks will automatically choke off man-made global warming -- an argument that can only be settled in any reasonable length of time by better satellite data.)

The more data we get to nail this down, the less alibi this Administration -- or the next one -- will have for resisting the need to start doing something about it. Indeed, over the last few months, you'll note a decided softening of this Administration's rhetoric regarding its supposed doubts on the subject (even if the President himself, when torn away from his comic books, has developed an attachment to the ludicrous conspiracy theories of Michael Crichton).
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remcook
post Mar 31 2006, 01:38 PM
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..and don't forget by far the largest part of the planet is inaccesible to man, or at least not accessed by man (i.e. the oceans). Oceans store most of the energy for climate, but data coverage from ground-based observations is very sparse. If you want to have a global picture, you need satellites.
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mcaplinger
post Mar 31 2006, 04:30 PM
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QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Mar 30 2006, 11:53 PM) *
I've always heard that satellites are absolutely crucial...

Sure, you generally hear this from people who are involved in satellite missions.

It may be that there are reasonably-priced satellite missions that can answer environmental questions. The EOS mega-system, however, really muddied the water. It's a classis big-mission/small-mission dichotomy, which in my opinion didn't weigh heavily in favor of big missions.


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tty
post Mar 31 2006, 05:09 PM
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QUOTE (remcook @ Mar 31 2006, 03:38 PM) *
..and don't forget by far the largest part of the planet is inaccesible to man, or at least not accessed by man (i.e. the oceans). Oceans store most of the energy for climate, but data coverage from ground-based observations is very sparse. If you want to have a global picture, you need satellites.


Not to mention the ice caps. Actually the claims about melting ice caps are rather shaky since they are almost completely based on measurements from parts of Greenland and the Antarctic Peninsula while we have very little data from East Antarctica which is the really important area. Theoretical studies seems to indicate that the East Antarctic Ice Cap is probably growing, but we don't know for sure, and satellite measuremets is the only realistic way to find out.

tty
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Mar 31 2006, 08:16 PM
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Well, there are certainly enough smaller satellites in the "A-Train" sequence as well. (Notice that they're the ones that the Administration was trying to knife, since the funding for EOS is pretty much complete.) Frankly, if I'm going to waste any money unnecessarily on space, THIS is the best possible place to unnecessarily waste it.
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The Messenger
post Apr 3 2006, 02:00 PM
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QUOTE (Space.com)
NASA's investment in enabling technologies for space exploration has been scaled back dramatically in the past year and focused on areas deemed critical to fielding the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and conducting the first human lunar sorties since the Apollo program.

The $1 billion worth of human and robotic technology projects NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate selected in late 2004 would have kept scores of researchers in industry and academia busy for years working on a mix of pressing problems and longer-range considerations facing a space agency daring to venture beyond Earth's orbit.

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, sworn in several months after the selections were made by the previous NASA regime, did not waste much time deciding that the agency could not afford such a robust technology-development portfolio if it wanted to keep its exploration agenda on track.


http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/06..._nasa_tech.html

This article may deserve its own thread - it would seem to take a lot of seed money out of the universitys needed to harvest a new crop of space scientists and engineers.
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PhilHorzempa
post Apr 3 2006, 06:54 PM
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Check out today's NASA Watch for a link to an excellent article from yesterday's
Washington Post. It is entitiled, "Is NASA in Outer Space? Not After a Surprise
Round of Budget Cuts." I agree wholeheartedly with the aouthor's point that Congress
needs to erect a permanent FIREWALL in NASA's budget to protect unmanned Space
Science missions. The author highlights the "deferments" of such crucial missions
as the Europa Orbiter, SIM and TPF.

In my opinion, Griffin must be prevented from setting a precedent with NASA's
FY07 budget proposal. If Congress allows Griffin to steal funds from Space Science
this time, then he, and future NASA Administrators, will be tempted to dream up
some "emergency" in manned spaceflight that "requires" them to take funds from
unmanned exploration.
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The Messenger
post Apr 7 2006, 05:40 PM
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-- Continued Confusion Over Astrobiology Funding by NASA
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.nl.html?id=1110

QUOTE (Spaceref)
"What follows below is the strange sequence of steps NASA Headquarters has decided to take with regard to funding for NASA's Astrobiology Program. In a nutshell, NASA officials publicly stated last week that they were going to add money back to the previously-cut Astrobiology program. Then, at an internal meeting 3 days later, they changed their mind - but did not tell anyone."


c-r-e-d-i-b-i-l-i-t-y
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Apr 21 2006, 01:37 PM
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Odd disparity: In a Feb. 13 article ("Time to Talk"), Aviation Week says that "NASA cut about $2 billion from its five-year runout for space science". But in an April 3 article ("Setting Priorities"), AW says that "Overall, NASA's Fiscal 2007 request trims $3.1 billion from the five-year science spending plan outlined in its Fiscal 2006 budget." Which is true?

Also, an interesting Aviation Week guest editorial from the Hubble Telescope's Bruce Margon defending Flagship-class space science missions: http://www-int.stsci.edu/~margon/awst.pdf
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Apr 24 2006, 11:32 PM
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Cpurtesy of (grrr) Keith Cowing: the Planetary Science Institute has polled 1024 planetary scientists to find out just what they want done with the money the program DOES have available right now:
http://www.psi.edu/~sykes/prioritysurvey/results.html

The results are both clear and interesting. There is very strong agreement with what Andy Dantzler told Congress: R&A funds come first, then small (Discovery and Mars Scout) missions, then medium ones (New Frontiers), with Flagship missions as a whole (at the rate one per decade) being lowest priority. BUT: there is also overwhelming enthusiasm (73%) for skipping the next 1 or 2 Discovery AOs plus the next New Frontiers AO to fly ONE near-future Flagship mission.

Obvious next question: do the scientists want that one near-future Flagship to be Europa Orbiter (as currently planned), or something else?
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Bob Shaw
post Apr 25 2006, 03:08 PM
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Bruce:

Look on the bright side - the MEPAG folk talk to *you*!

Bob Shaw


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Remember: Time Flies like the wind - but Fruit Flies like bananas!
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