Wednesday, April 19, 2006

NASA madness

astronomers' worst fears about president bush's "vision for space exploration" are coming true. NASA is cancelling missions for which most of the money has already been spent and most of the hardware has already been built. it's like building a house and not moving in.

pity the heavy-handed axe is spared for the skyrocketing costs of returning the shuttle to flight and the white elephant of a space station, of little scientific value, that continues to bleed nasa just so it can fulfill its obligations to its international partners.

the white house claims that missions like SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) are now suddenly no longer worthwhile, despite the fact that the german space agency spent about $100 million building the telescope in exchange for 20% of SOFIA's observing time. what about that committment?

astronomers can hardly complain too loudly about delays or cancellations of future space-astronomy missions, given all the other demands on the US budget, but when a project like SOFIA - a project designed not only to excel at scientific research, but also at education and public outreach, that has already been built is cut, they are entitled to ask questions about just what is NASA's intent.

on feb. 6th, this year, the SOFIA project issued a statement celebrating the completion of all major aircraft modifications - which included cutting a giant hole in the 747's fuselage. they also anticipated the start of test flightsthis fall. later the same day, president bush unvieled next year's federal budget. for SOPHIA it showed $0. that's right, $500 million of taxpayers money is no longer worthwhile...

he's impressive...

if you're a US taxpayer and care about space astronomy, now would be a good time to let your representatives and senators know.

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