Editor's note: Due to several problems with today's NASA Science Mission Directorate telecon I was unable to ask SMD Associate Alan Stern a question. However, I did manage to get in touch with him after the telecon. I asked him "This budget calls for some new Earth science missions at a time when the Bush Administration is often cited as being uninterested in Earth and/or climate related science. Can you describe the impetus for this decision - did NASA suggest these missions on their own initiative or did the White House ask that NASA propose them?"
Stern said "neither". He explained by recalling that early in his time at NASA he told Mike Griffin that he wanted to try and ramp up Earth Science. According to Stern, Mike Griffin said "I am good with that". NASA then took this idea forward to John Marburger at OSTP only to discover that Marburger had already decided on his own that he wanted to see NASA do this. As such, the idea did not meet with resistance, but rather, it was met with open arms in both locations. "And Mike was green light all the way". Stern said.
Speaking to the overall SMD budget picture Stern expressed enthusiasm for the way things have changed for SMD in the past year, noting that R&A was up and that there multiple new starts which Stern characterized as being "like a Gatling gun as opposed to the occasional pistol fire."