Space & Planetary Science: February 2006 Archives

NASA MEPAG Report: Mars Science Goals, Objectives, Investigations, and Priorities: 2006

"In 2000, the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) was asked by NASA to work with the science community to establish consensus priorities for the future scientific exploration of Mars. Those discussions and analyses resulted in a report entitled Scientific Goals, Objectives, Investigations, and Priorities, which is informally referred to as the "Goals Document" (MEPAG 2001). The initial report proved to be very useful for guiding program implementation decisions. It also has become clear over the past few years that the report requires regular updating in light of dramatic new results from Mars and evolving high-level strategic direction from NASA."

Letter from Nobel Laureate Baruch Blumberg and SETI Institute CEO Thomas Pierson Regarding Proposed Astrobiology Cuts

"While it is true that the entire NASA science budget is under pressure, this 50% cut to astrobiology is much larger than the 15% across-the-board cuts proposed for FY '07 in the other NASA research programs. Although many of us consider astrobiology to be the primary science of the President's Vision for Space Exploration as detailed on the NASA web site at, this is not reflected in the budget proposal."

Editor's note: A common comment heard from SMD AA Mary Cleave with regard to why she is cutting astrobiology is "Dan Goldin isn't here any more" and that the program was "political"

Pluto Today

Editor's note: SpaceRef is pleased to announce today the launch of the newest addition to the SpaceRef network, Pluto Today.

Pluto Today covers news relating to Pluto, Charon, and other Kuiper Belt Objects including, Sedna, 2003 UB313, as well as asteroids and comets.

Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee Notice of Meeting, Federal Register Notice

Editor's note: This meeting notice states that the purpose of this meeting is to "provide advice and recommendations to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on issues within the field of astronomy and astrophysics that are of mutual interest and concern to the agencies."

This 'open' meeting spans two days - yesterday and today - and is being held right now in room MIC-5 at NASA HQ. The meeting notice only appeared in today's (14 February 2006) issue of the Federal Register. The notice was supposedly submitted on 9 February 2006 - far later than the two weeks required by FACA rules - unless exceptional circumstances warrant - with the non-exceptional excuse "Reason for Late Notice: Due to administrative complications and oversight.". Either the paper work got lost or they forgot.

It would seem that the principals involved in this effort don't take this committee's effort seriously enough so as to allow the public, media, and other interested parties to attend this open meeting. No one at NASA, NSF, or DOE took any effort to let people know. Quite the contrary. Given the substantial cuts that NASA is implementing in space science this does not say much for transparency in the formulation of science budget issues among these affected parties. Nor does it demonstrate much concern for the researchers affected by these decisions.

Beer on Mars

Heineken on Mars

"Dutch space team is leading an exploration robot on Mars when it suddenly starts transforming."

Editor's note: Too bad NASA PAO can't think this way - they might get the couch potato crowd a little more interested in space.

Ambushing SOFIA

NASA leaves jumbo-jet telescope on the runway, New Scientist

"The mission needs another $80 million to pass flight tests in late 2006 and begin regular science flights in 2008, says Black. That is the same amount NASA would have to pay SOFIA's contractors to close the project down, he estimates. "From a purely financial point of view, it makes no sense to do this."

Editor's note: Word has it that Rick Howard and Hashima Hassan, under direction by SMD Associate Administrator Mary Cleave, are preparing some background information regarding SOFIA (the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) in preparation for this week's hearings before the House Science Committee. This information is intended to serve as justification of NASA's proposed abandonment of the SOFIA project - despite the fact that SOFIA has consistently been a top priority of the National Academy of Sciences for more than a decade.

Apparently, the thrust of the presentation is that SOFIA is having money and technical problems and deserves to be cancelled. In making this argument, NASA will apparently not make any reference to another mission with similar albeit larger problems looming on the horizon i.e. the Webb Space Telescope and (cost growth = $1 billion-plus and counting). Word has it that NASA's SOFIA partner, DLR, wont exactly go along quietly on this issue.

And for those of you who may wonder why Webb is getting such special treatment while other projects with far smaller problems are being axed, just read this recent press release - and note the source.

Sen. Mikulski Response to Space Funding in President's NASA Budget

"The budget also provides $443 million for the Webb Telescope, which will follow the Hubble Telescope, scheduled to be launched in 2013. The Webb Telescope will be run by Baltimore's Space Telescope Science Institute and Goddard."

The Hazards of Speaking Out

Editor's note: Word has it that Anne Kinney, Director of the Universe Division at the Science Mission Directorate at NASA HQ, is apparently being banished to GSFC for disagreeing with SMD Associate Administrator Mary Cleave. This is what happens if you question all of the science cuts.

Space Science Revolt Begins

A Budget With Big Winners and Losers, Science (subscription)

"The raid on science is already meeting strong resistance. Hours before Griffin met with reporters, House Science Committee Chair Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) said he was "greatly concerned" with the "sharply reduced growth" in space and earth sciences in the NASA request. And Wesley Huntress, a former NASA science chief and president of the Pasadena, California-based Planetary Society, criticized the request for "using money intended for science programs to fund continued operation of the shuttle, ... a program scheduled for termination."

Reader note: "CALL TO ACTION: NASA to cut research by 25% to help pay for shuttle replacement

Greetings Colleagues: We have a very serious matter on our hands now. NASA plans to reduce funding for research programs over FY06 and FY07 by 25% in order to fund the development of the Crewed Exploration Vehicle and Crew Launch Vehicle. This is a disaster to American solar system exploration. Our ability to turn this situation around is going to depend directly upon your communicating with your Representative and Senators. Absolutely every voice will count!

Planetary Society Charges Administration with Blurring its Vision for Space Exploration

"The NASA Budget released today shortchanges space science in order to fund 17 projected space shuttle flights. Despite recent spectacular results from NASA's science programs, this budget puts the brakes on their growth within the agency. It seriously damages the hugely productive and successful robotic exploration of our solar system and beyond."

NASA Budget Betrays Vision for Space Exploration, IFPTE

"The stop-gap approach of devouring everything else at the Agency, while holding out for some future financial miracle, is irresponsible. This course of action is destroying NASA's key infrastructure and capabilities, and the hundreds of millions recouped cannot make up the multi-billion dollar Shuttle shortfall."

Rep. Boehlert Comments on President's Budget

"I am greatly concerned about the proposed budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). We have to be sure that we are not demonstrating that science is a 'crown jewel' of NASA by seeing how much we can get for it at the pawnshop. I believe the most important planet in the Universe is the one we live on."



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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from February 2006.

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