- July 26, 2022
Here come the naysayers
22 November 2004: NASA’s Moon-Mars Initiative Jeopardizes Important Science Opportunities, According to American Physical Society Report, American Physical Society
“The committee points out that the total cost of NASA’s ill-defined Moon-Mars initiative is unknown as yet, but is likely to be a substantial drain on NASA resources. As currently envisioned, the initiative will rely on human astronauts who will establish a base on the moon and subsequently travel to Mars. The program is in contrast to recent, highly successful NASA missions, including the Hubble Space telescope, the Mars Rover, and Explorer missions, which have revolutionized our understanding of the universe while relying on comparatively cheap, unmanned and robotic instruments. It is likely that such programs will have to be scaled back or eliminated in the wake of much more expensive and dangerous manned space exploration, according to the committee.”
Editor’s note: 30 November 2004: To preface all the earlier comments on this report, I just received an email from APS’ Director of Public Affairs, Michael Lubell regarding his earlier lawsuit threat in response to my comments on the APS’ report:
From: “Michael Lubell” email@example.com
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 2004 12:49:51 -0500
Subject: NASA Watch Feedback
Apology about law suit. Although your rhetoric was highly inflammatory and misrepresnted the APS POPA report, I should have not have responded in kind. You caught me at a bad moment. I do hope, however,that you will take thetrouble to read the report in its entirety and recognize that it does not criticize the worth of human space flightin general, as you allege. I also hope that by now you are aware that some of the NASA plus up in the Omnibus bill came at the expense of the National Science Foundation, consistent with the APS POPA report forecast.
Editor’s note: What else can we expect from the APS – an organization with a long history of being opposed to human spaceflight – one which has allowed chronic anti-human spaceflight pundit Bob Park to speak on its behalf for years. A quick look at the panel who wrote this report – and those who reviewed it – doesn’t seem to include anyone with human space flight background. Then again, APS has never bothered to seek balance in anything it writes about space policy, so why start now?
What is rather humorous is that the APS chose to release this biased report the day after Congress gave the President’s space policy a resounding vote of confidence.
26 November 2004: Editor’s Update: Now APS is threatening me with a lawsuit for slander. Since APS’ Director of Public Affairs, Michael Lubell, had some corrections he wished me to make I have posted his email below – verbatim. I have also made a point by point rebuttal of his email (which has been revised since I originally posted it).
From: “Michael Lubell” firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Tue, 23 Nov 2004 13:22:18-0500
Subject: NASA Watch Feedback
Watch it guys. You’ve made slanderous statements. If you wish to avoid alaw suit, please correct your copy buy the end of this week.
The APS report has nothing to do with the benefits of human space flight but everything to do with gutting the budgets of NASA’s Road mapped science programs. The APS report asks only that the NAS and GAO examine the costs, benefits and impacts of the Moon Mars initiative.
Please note that Bob Park no longer speaks for the APS, but rather for the University of Maryland.
Finally, Congress did not give the Moon Mars program a resounding vote of confidence. It’s doubtful that more than a dozen members even knew it was in the bill, since both the House and Senate appropriators had excised it earlier in the year.
Please get your facts straight.
Michael S. Lubell
Chairman, Department of Physics, CCNY
Director of Public Affairs, APS
Lubell: “Watch it guys. You’ve made slanderous statements. If you wish to avoid a law suit, please correct your copy buy the end of this week.”
Cowing: Where’s the “slander”? “Slander” is spoken. “Libel” is written. I have never spoken with you – and have only written on this topic.
Lubell: “The APS report has nothing to do with the benefits of human space flight but everything to do with gutting the budgets of NASA’s Road mapped science programs. The APS report asks only that the NAS and GAO examine the costs, benefits and impacts of the Moon Mars initiative.”
Cowing: Then please explain the presence of these statements in the APS report – and the press release which accompanies that report – which clearly address the benefits (or the APS’ determination as to the lack thereof) of human space flight:
“Human exploration has a role to play in NASA, but it must be within a balanced program in which allocated resources span the full spectrum of the space sciences and take advantage of emerging scientific opportunities and synergies.”
“Astronauts on Mars might achieve greater scientific returns than robotic missions, but they would come at such a high cost that scientific grounds, alone, would probably not provide a sufficient rationale.”
“Returning Americans to the Moon and landing on Mars would have a powerful symbolic significance, but it would constitute only a small step in the advancement of knowledge, since much will already be known from exploration with the robotic precursor probes that are necessary to guarantee the safety of any human mission.”
“Human exploration could offer one real advantage: serendipity, the opportunity to notice and respond immediately to the unexpected. In this regard, astronauts on Mars might achieve greater scientific returns than robotic missions, but at such a high cost and technical challenge that one could not expect to justify their presence on scientific grounds alone.”
“In addition to the cost and risk of deploying humans on Mars, a negative impact on the astrobiological goals must also be considered. Inevitably sending astronauts to Mars will contaminate the surface with terrestrial life forms and thereby compromise a prime target of the exploration program, the search for life on another solar system body.”
Lubell: “Please note that Bob Park no longer speaks for the APS, but rather for the University of Maryland.”
Cowing: Read my statement carefully: “What else can we expect from the APS – an organization with a long history of being opposed to human spaceflight – one which has allowed chronic anti-human spaceflight pundit Bob Park to speak on its behalf for years.” Bob Park may no longer formally speak for APS, but he most certainly did for a number of years – including multiple appearances at Congressional hearings. Curiously, for someone who “no longer speaks for the APS”, it is curious that Bob Park’s long-running “What”s New” feature is hosted on the APS web server-and that “What’s New” has a prominent link on the APS home page.
I see no mention of “What’s New” on the University of Maryland website at the pages devoted to News or Marketing and Communications. Yet, when I go to Bob Park’s official University home page I see no mention of “What’s New” either. Curiously, the official email address listed for him is not one on the University of Marlyand system, as you’d expect, but rather email@example.com with a link to his personal home page at http://www.bobpark.com/. If Bob Park is speaking for the University of Maryland in some official capacity, I see scant evidence as to what he is doing on their behalf. Indeed, all I see are pointers to his APS activities – past and present.
In addition, when I checked to see what Professor Lubell’s office hours are at the City College of New York, I found that his email address is also listed as being on the APS system – firstname.lastname@example.org – not an email affiliated with the CCNY system as one might expect a member of the faulty to do.
Lubell: “Finally, Congress did not give the Moon Mars program a resounding vote of confidence. It’s doubtful that more than a dozen members even knew it was in the bill, since both the House and Senate appropriators had excised it earlier in the year.”
Cowing: Congress most certainly DID “give the Moon Mars program a resounding vote of confidence”! Not only did they give NASA the funding level the President asked for they did so at a time when other discretionary spending took a hit. That is rather extraordinary. In addition, the House Appropriations Committee stated “The agreement give NASA almost total funding flexibility, but requires NASA to report to the Congress within 60 days on how they will adjust program values to cover increased costs associated with the Hubble servicing/repair mission and shuttle return-to-flight activities. This flexibility is unprecedented and gives the Administrator broad latitude to implement the President’s vision for Space within the funds provided in the bill.” Why would they go out of their way to allow NASA to wield such authority unless they were confident that NASA would do so properly?
As for your contention that “both the House and Senate appropriators had excised [Moon Mars program] earlier in the year” that is also inaccurate. A glance at the Senate and House shows that funding was reduced, but these programs were not “excised”. Moreover, when House and Senate appropriators met in conference, not only were budget cuts reversed, but by the time both the House and Senate voted on NASA’s budget the President’s space initiative was fully funded!
As for your unsubstantiated guess that “It’s doubtful that more than a dozen members even knew it was in the bill” I beg to differ since the membership of both House and Senate Appropriations committees exceeds a dozen members (House = 65, Senate = 29) AND House Majority Whip Tom Delay stated publicly that he told everyone (one would assume that is more than “a dozen”) that he would not allow the Omnibus Appropriations Bill to advance unless NASA was fully funded. You would think that more than a dozen people would be interested in an issue that threatened to hold up all spending for the entire U.S. government.
Lubell: “Please get your facts straight.”
Cowing: It would help if you did the same.