Word is that President Obama will be announcing a bold new initiative in the physical sciences later today, providing major sustained funding boost and significant increases in funding across the board, including new major research faciltiies, accelerated funding of ongoing projects and more money for pure “blue sky” research, as part of a coherent plan to boost the economy and provide a long term path for sustainable growth.
Confidential sources at NaSA tell me the President will make space science the cornerstone of the new policy:
“Obama is sick of hundreds of billions of dollars being thrown away on banker bonuses and dysfunctional and corrupt military contractors. He is going to put the entire authority of the Presidency behind a coherent plan to boost the economy through long term sustainable growth, and smart as he is, he realizes you have to begin with the basics: there will be billions of dollars in new funding for everything from pure mathematics to blue sky material science research – funding explicitly not tied to short term development or applications like energy savings, those programs will remain in place, but will now be anchored by stable higher level funding to lay the basic groundwork for the science on which the new technology will be based.”
Apparently the Next Generation Space Telescope will be the “shovel ready” flagship project, and OMB has laid out an aggressive budget profile that minimizes the total development cost, not the short term costs, enabling launch in 2015. New funding wedges will be opened in parallel to ramp up the initiatives already identified as priorities – with development of a large wide field imaging telescope to go into pre-phase A immediately.
Projects with international partnerships are also to be expedited, in parallel, with LISA and IXO to get new starts in fiscal 2013. Planet finding also moves to the forefront, two imaging missions, employing different technologies, will get new starts, while a technology demonstrator for interferometry in space goes straight into phase A.
There will also be expanded calls for smaller “explorer” class missions, with many more flight opportunities. As well as expansion of the underlying theory and data analysis programs,: “no point collecting all this data if we don’t look at it and try to understand it” said a beaming Obama.
Missions will also come with realistic profiles for out-year funding for MODA, so that “too successful” missions that refuse to die on schedule can be supported through an extended phase.
Planetary and Solar science will also get major boosts, with the Mars mission profile back on track for launches at every window, and a series of landers building on previous lessons.
Cautious exploration of the icy moons and nearby asteroids will also be expanded.
Climate Science funding will triple immediately, the President was quoted saying: “What do they think we are? Fucking ostriches? Damn right we need more data. First thing we take GoreSat out of storage and get it out there, then we tiger team the climate sats and get them right!”
The NSF will get “shitloads more money”.
Joe Biden explained: “Look, right now it is just a lottery, researchers would do better buying Powerball tix. We can’t run a science policy as a lottery!”
There will be two LSSTs, one for the north and one for the south.
And the NSF is directed to break ground on a GMT-N and GMT-S.
“I love Sarkozy, but no way are letting the Frenchies beat us at the “biggest telescope” game”. Lets show the Euros what the US is still #1 at something actually worth doing!” the President reputedly said in a closed meeting with his science advisors.
Obama also directed that the dispute over SKA location be resolved, with construction to begin at both the Oz and SA sites, and a third SKA to be built in the southwestern US.
“It is the only thing that can save Vegas, and anyway, we need to know what is out there… “watch the skies!””, said an unusually somber President Obama.
In an interview to be broadcast sunday, Obama explained: “shit, I mean when I saw the budget, and realized we could revolutionize science for 1% of what we spent on the fucking bankers, so they could keep their bonuses, I knew we had to do it”.
He went on to say: “look, we spend this much every week in the sandbox, and where has that got us? This will actually provide a future, and give us a chance to regain long term economic competitiveness. Hell, did you know those geeks actually invented the Internet?
And Google, that was an NSF project in “library science”! Can you believe it, less than half-mill and we got Google! Why aren’t we doing more of this? I asked.”
The new initiatives will be paid for in the short run through a “windfall tax” on financial industry bonuses – “don’t worry”, said Obama, “we’re only going after the $10M or more per year crowd – not even Boehner can claim those guys are middle class”
OMB estimates that just the windfall tax from Goldman Sachs will pay for this initiative through 2020. Long term, the President plans to propose a “Tobin tax”, though OMB expects the initiative will more than pay for itself through economic growth by then.
“Best of all”, said the President, “we’ll have to pay the geeks more, not that they won’t still be cheap, I mean they do it because they like it, I remember college. But, we’ll have to stop the flow of talent to the financial industry, no point paying for someone to spend 12% of their working life doing a PhD in theoretical physics, and then have them waste it on being a quant at Renaissance! They could be doing something that actually benefits society, and like it.”
Sources inside the beltway confirm that the White House will throw the full weight and authority of the Presidency behind the initiative, and warned Congressional leaders to “get out of the way, or be steamrollered!”. “Executive Privilege baby. What the President really, really wants, the President gets! Anyway, this is peanuts. Cantor tries to cut it, we go fucking austere on his fucking ass! That’s the Chicago way.” said a well informed midwestern source formerly highly placed within the inner circles of the White House.
“Damn!”, said Obama, “if VCU and Butler can make the Final Four, then anything is possible! And, you know, that astronomy night we did on the lawn, those WV kids, that was cool, Malia and Sasha loved it, they asked me, why don’t we do more of that? So, I thought, yeah, we can do that!”
“It is sometimes good to be the President”.