Sofa Change


Everyone knows by now that NASA is having budget problems thanks to Bush effectively giving the agency an unfunded mandate to colonize the Moon. The big issues are widely publicized: will they keep the Hubble flying or not, by how much will they push back the Mars exploration missions, which big next-generation space telescopes will get cancelled?

But it's the way NASA is seemingly checking all the couch cusions for loose change that is perhaps more worrisome, and not attracting broad attention. In the conference call I just got out of, there was mention that a mission study I'm involved with will have part of its funding "postponed", that a related detector R&D project was defunded ... the examples keep rolling in. These are programs that are providing, at most, stipends for a handful of grad students. Extremely small change by any measure of Federal budgeting.

And I wonder -- is the situation better or worse at other, lower-profile agencies? I'm inclined to suspect worse in many cases.


There was a letter circulating at the AAS (from a big-wig... it was suppose to be top secret or something but we know how well astronomers are at keeping secrets) that bassically said that STScI can expect some catastrophic funding cuts. The problem apparently is that someone bothered to to an audit of the place and realized that they have a lot of tenured people who have been neglecting their job descriptions, mainly the part that is 50% service to suppor the Hubble and not 100% research. Which gets me to another sore point: if one were to do an audit of the garaunteed observer allocations for NASA space science programs one would find that they have yielded orders of magnitude less useful science than those programs that had to get approval through the peer-review process.
The word on the street is that the new NASA administrator promised SM4 (the last Hubble servicing mission) to key members of Congress in exchange for them supporting his confirmation. So the mission will occur, however no funds have been appropriated by Congress so it will probably come out of other science programs (read: Chandra).
The last element of the whole ball of crap is that the NSF has decided on a "senior review" of all the national observatories to find $30 they can scrape together to pay for ALMA. It seems that the VLA is almost certain to get axed along with a great deal of other key radio astronomy.
So what it all comes down to is that Astronomy is totally fskcked in the US and one can expect some nasty interdisciplinary feuds to be breaking out in the community over the next few years.

Um sorry thats no $30 NSF needs for ALMA... that's $30 million.

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This page contains a single entry by Milligan published on June 9, 2005 8:56 PM.

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