Saturday, February 18, 2006

Saturday Space Blogging: So Much For Science

by Tom Bozzo

Last September, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said that NASA would live within a $16 billion (constant dollar) budget, "and not 'one thin dime' will be taken from science projects."

I said at the time that there was no way the Bush Administration could advance its human spaceflight "vision," stay within its (arbitrary) budget limit, and maintain funding for NASA's science projects:
[G]o figure: by advanced mathematics [*], NASA will need more money or the science budgets will be raided. Or, the science budgets will still be raided and it'll be determined that there's no way Congress will shell out $100 billion to go back to the moon.
Yesterday, Gary Farber's big roundup of teh science found Griffin singing a different tune before the House Science Committee. The New Scientist lede:
Human spaceflight is NASA's top priority and must take precedence over science in the agency's budget, NASA chief Mike Griffin told a US congressional committee on Thursday.

Griffin defended the agency's 2007 budget proposal, announced on 6 February, at a hearing before the US House of Representatives' science committee. The $16.8 billion budget includes $5.3 billion for science in 2007 but calls for $3.1 billion in cuts to science programmes by 2010 compared to projections made in the 2006 budget request.
Sherwood Boehlert states the obvious:
"It basically cuts or de-emphasises every forward-looking, truly futuristic programme…to enable us to do what we are already doing or have done before," he said. "If science becomes secondary, if scientists leave the agency, if new missions don't keep young researchers going, then it will be hard to leave this pattern."
The relationship between Bushism and science being what it is, the only thing missing is an administration response of, "Your point being?"

Gary observes one thing that makes me alter my probabilities over the likely outcomes a bit. There seems to be more concern than one might suppose among those who control the pursestrings that we avoid a moon rocket gap with China. That might — depending on the magnitude of new messes forthcoming, including the post-Bush fiscal hangover — keep a moon program alive, though possibly with the science package limited to what can be fit inside the flagpole.


(*) Unless you're the Washington Post's Richard Cohen, and are feeling in a clownish mood, in which case the result is obtained by boring and totally useless mathematics.
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