Space & Planetary Science: July 2006 Archives

Meanwhile, Back on Earth - NASA climate-change research should not suffer because the president wants to go to Mars, Editorial, Washington Post

"NASA is facing a real fiscal crisis. Even though the White House is demanding more, it hasn't given the space agency the funding it needs to build a launcher for the moon mission, pay an unexpectedly large bill for repairing the space shuttle and do everything else it committed to before Mr. Bush's Mars announcement. According to the space agency, NASA is diverting a little over $3 billion from its science research budget over five years."

Editor's note: The Space Studies Board has been revising its membership. It is interesting to note that in light of NASA's continued cuts to astrobiology and space life science that the SSB has added Jack Farmer from Arizona State University, an astrobiologist and James Pawelczyk from Pennsylvania State University, a Neurolab astronaut and physiologist. Also, former NASA Administrator Richard Truly has joined and Tom Young is now the vice-chair of the SSB. Of course Lennard A. Fisk retains his chairmanship.

  • What Griffin Thinks - and the Academy Says - About Astrobiology, earlier post
  • What Mike Griffin *Really* Thinks About NRC's Space Station Report, earlier post
  • Methane Lakes on Titan

    Cassini Radar Finds Hydrocarbon Lakes on Titan

    "The Cassini spacecraft, using its radar system, has discovered very strong evidence for hydrocarbon lakes on Titan. Dark patches, which resemble terrestrial lakes, seem to be sprinkled all over the high latitudes surrounding Titan's north pole. Scientists have speculated that liquid methane or ethane might form lakes on Titan, particularly near the somewhat colder polar regions."

    Safe Return for the Shuttle, editorial, NY Times

    "Discovery's seemingly unblemished flight raises some hope that a shuttle mission to rejuvenate the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA's most important scientific instrument, may prove feasible. Such a mission would be somewhat more risky than a trip to the space station because the astronauts would not have a place to take refuge were the shuttle orbiter to be damaged. But the scientific payoff, in our view, would be far greater than any likely research benefits from the space station."

    Long-Term Mars Exploration Under Threat, Panel Warns, Science (subscription)

    "NASA currently spends $650 million a year on Mars exploration, and that figure was projected to double by 2010. But as a result of the demands of the space shuttle, President George W. Bush's human exploration initiative, and cost overruns among other science projects, Mars spending now is slated to remain flat through that period."

    Letter From USRA President David Black Regarding Senate Amendment on NASA FY 2007 Budget

    "As a result of these unforeseen expenses, NASA was forced to dramatically reduce long-planned funding to science, aeronautics, and exploration programs. Though the Agency has worked earnestly to mitigate the budgetary impact to other NASA programs of returning the shuttle to flight, the costs have been greater than the Agency can absorb. In some areas, the cuts have been so drastic that the continued existence of the associated research communities is threatened."

    Senators Hutchison and Mikulski Introduce NASA Funding Amendment

    "The amendment provides funds to reimburse NASA for the costs of returning to flight following the Shuttle Columbia disaster and implementation of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board recommendations. The funds will also provide relief for NASA facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Vital research was being cut to fund emergency repairs; this will restore core missions for NASA science."

    GAO: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Still Faces "Considerable Challenges", House Science Committee, Democratic Membership

    GAO: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Still Faces "Considerable Challenges"

    "Although the JWST program recently revised its acquisition strategy to conform to NASAs acquisition policies, the program still faces considerable challenges because it has not fully implemented a knowledge-based approach, which our past work has shown is often a key factor in program success."

    American Astronomical Society Supports Senators' Efforts to Secure Emergency Appropriations for NASA

    "The AAS commends Senators Mikulski and Hutchison for their leadership in proposing an emergency supplement to NASA's FY07 appropriations that will help to compensate for the unexpected expenses associated with the Shuttle Columbia accident and damage to NASA facilities caused by Hurricane Katrina. This emergency funding request will alleviate severe cuts to NASA's space science program that are being taken to fully fund the Space Shuttle and the ISS -- costs for which there was never an adequate budget."

    Reader note: With regard to an earlier NASA Watch posting SIM Slip Saves SOFIA and Other Projects "Rick Howard, the temporary replacement for Anne Kinney, made an off hand remark that since all discussion of the FY 08 budget is embargoed and that Griffin's talking about SIM and SOFIA have to do with the FY 08 budget he, Griffin, technically shouldn't have made those remarks."

    Full reader comments below:

    Final Memorandum on Improvements Needed in NASA's Evaluation and Selection Processes under NASA Research Announcements., NASA OIG

    "We found many of the complainant's allegations of procedural flaws in NASA's conduct of the NRA to be substantiated, as discussed in detail below."

    Editor's note: Last Thursday, Mike Griffin announced restoration of funding for SOFIA at a public meeting of the NAC Science Committee and Subcommittees. According to someone familiar with the discussions that followed Griffin's announcement, SOFIA will be funded by slipping SIM, which will be examined within the next Academy decadal survey, prior to proceeding to full development. While SOFIA is the most visible beneficiary, it was explained that the slippage of SIM solves problems with funding for GLAST, Kepler, JWST, and possibly HST servicing. The WISE mission will proceed, as planned.

    Editor's note: Several people in attendance noted that Griffin clearly appeared to be reading from prepared remarks. Those comments have not been posted by NASA PAO. Word has it that OMB asked NASA not to release them. Stay tuned.

    Assessment of NASA's Mars Architecture 2007-2016, NAS

    "This assessment by the ad hoc Mars Architecture Assessment Committee (the members of the committee are listed in Appendix 1) was carried out at a meeting held at the National Academies' Keck Center in Washington, D.C., on March 29-31, 2006."

    Oh yes, yet another NAS effort Mary Cleave will ignore starts next week: NAS Review of NASA Science Mission Directorate Science Plan


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