Space & Planetary Science: October 2006 Archives

Space Science Cut Update

Editor's note: When asked by a reporter about the Administration's interest in supporting science, and the complaints that the science community has raised, Mike Griffin replied "I am bothered by the basic premise of the question". He then went on to explain how there would be less funding for science - and the he had the Bush Administration's backing in making these decisions. "There is nothing at NASA that is not science friendly" he added (whatever that means).

NASA Announces Discovery Program Selections

"NASA Monday selected concept studies for missions that would return a sample of an enigmatic asteroid, probe the chemistry of Venus' atmosphere and reveal the interior structure and history of the Earth's moon."

Space Science Update

Comments by NAS Space Studies Board Chair Lennard Fisk, NAS

"There is consternation these days between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its external science community. In August, three senior science advisors were dismissed from the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). In the aftermath, the Administrator of NASA, Mike Griffin, through correspondence with the NAC and its science subcommittees and through a major speech at the Goddard Space Flight Center, clarified how NASA will manage its science program, and the role of the science community."

Robots With Attitude

Mars Rover Beginning To Hate Mars, The Onion

"NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists overseeing the ongoing Mars Exploration Rover Mission said Monday that the Spirit's latest transmissions could indicate a growing resentment of the Red Planet."

Saving Astrobiology

Carl Sagan Center Formed to Study Life in the Universe

"The proposed 50-percent cut in the NASA Astrobiology budget for 2007 is a clear reminder of how volatile government support for science can be,'' said Hubbard, former director of NASA Ames Research Center. "Our immediate goal is to raise $4-6M over the next 3 years so that we can sustain our top researchers. The longer term vision is to establish endowed chairs and create additional laboratory capabilities," Hubbard stated. As the Sagan Chair, Hubbard will provide ongoing strategic guidance for the new Center."

Utah State astronaut speaks out, Salt Lake Tribune

"Bosses in the White House, hundreds on the Hill and internal managers in the space agency gave her the task of "trying to make a decision that's going to make everybody happy." "That never works," [Mary Cleave] said, adding that this "multibody problem" is compounded by the fact that many of the people she works with don't understand the intricacies of deep space science."

NASA's Mars Rover and Orbiter Team Examines Victoria Crater

"NASA's long-lived robotic rover Opportunity is beginning to explore layered rocks in cliffs ringing the massive Victoria crater on Mars. While Opportunity spent its first week at the crater, NASA's newest eye in the Martian sky photographed the rover and its surroundings from above. The level of detail in the photo from the high-resolution camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will help guide the rover's exploration of Victoria."

A Review of NASA's 2006 Draft Science Plan: Letter Report, NAS

"However, the committee does have some concerns about the draft plan. The committee found that the lack of a comparison of the current plan to plans produced in 2003 obscured the fact that NASA's space science plans have been significantly scaled back due to budget changes, and it recommends that NASA include a comparison between the current plan and those produced in 2003 for the Earth and space sciences."

The Irony of NASAs Nobel, editorial, NY Times

"NASA is basking in the glow of a Nobel Prize awarded to one of its scientists and to a Berkeley astronomer for research performed on a satellite built by NASA. The award is richly deserved, and the agency deserves great credit for making the work possible. Too bad the program that yielded these pioneering discoveries was reined in not long ago so that NASA could pour billions of dollars into resuming shuttle flights, finishing the international space station, and developing spacecraft to pursue the Bush administration's ambitious space exploration program."

Editor's note: If NASA had a "big picture" plan in place - one wherein all that NASA does is linked into a cohesive whole - NASA would be able to respond honestly to such lopsided opinion pieces. The President's Jan 2004 speech was a wonderful step in that direction. Too bad NASA has wandered away from it ever since, with science squeezed along the way - thus giving the anti-human space flight folks at the NY Times a soapbox to stand on.

Nobel Prize in Physics for 2006

"The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2006 jointly to John C. Mather, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA, and George F. Smoot University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA "for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation"."

  • NASA Telephone Conference Scheduled With Nobel Prize Winner
  • NASA News Conference Scheduled With Nobel Prize Winner
  • George Smoot Wins Nobel Prize in Physics, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • NASA Scientist Shares Nobel Prize for Physics, NASA
  • Editor's note: According to a notice sent to reporters by NASA HQ PAO: "We will hold a news conference in HQ auditorium, Tuesday at 3 p.m. EDT with Dr. John Mather regarding today's Nobel Prize announcement. Look for a media advisory. We will also likely follow up with a Media Telecon and support with a news release, etc.

  • This the first Nobel Prize ever by a NASA civil servant scientist.
  • COBE was built entirely in-house by NASA, including all instruments.
  • The Nobel Prize in Physics is the biggest prize in Science
  • For the past 10 years, Mather has been lead scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope."
  • Reader note: "Just a note to let you know, COBE was not built entirely in-house by NASA. The superfluid helium dewar that cooled the spacecraft's infrared instruments was built by Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado. They built three helium dewars: the other two flew on IRAS and Spitzer."

    Victoria's Secret, Aviation Week & Space Technology

    "The Mars Rover Opportunity is beginning complex and dangerous science operations 242 million mi. from Earth at the massive Victoria crater, the most spectacular and potentially significant target of the entire $800-million twin-rover Mars surface exploration mission.

    The rover has made dozens of sampling stops over the last 21 months. At the mission's outset, no one dreamed that Opportunity could reach Victoria, imaged well south of the landing site by the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter."



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