NASA - science and sensibility

The below-the-fold note was seen on WIRED. It's a plea to prevent political interference from continuing to demolish the scientifically worthwhile aspects of the NASA program, in favour of the bread and circuses smell to the lunar base. A friend worked in the Astrobiology Program NASA funded, which is where nearly all "origins of life" research takes place, apart from some European labs. They closed it down to fund the President's "Vision". Also, go read NASAWatch.


Subject: NASA Science Situation More Dire Than We Thought!

Date: December 5, 2006 8:30:00 AM PST

Dear Member,

The disastrous anti-science, anti-exploration agenda being foisted on NASA and Space Science has become more dangerous than we ever imagined possible.

And the chief architect of this alarming trend is the U.S. Administration.

Today, I am personally asking you to help fend off these attackers.

Once you've read about these outrageous new assaults on Space Science and on Exploration, I'm sure you'll want to do everything you can to help fight back.

First, the Administration made devastating cuts to the Space Science budget. This gave Congress and NASA head Mike Griffin the clear message that science - and the great adventure of robotic space exploration - must no longer be an important part of NASA's mission.

In order to keep its supposed promise of "pay-as-you-go" for its Vision for Space Exploration, the Administration chose to slash funds and cancel planetary exploration missions already in the works. Funds earmarked for science research at universities and laboratories across the United States were reallocated to pay back Shuttle repair and recovery expenses that the Bush Administration was unwilling to budget for.

What's ironic is that the Vision for Space Exploration (which The Planetary Society still supports) specifically slated the Shuttle for retirement in just a few short years and mandated a new launch vehicle to replace it. But now, the Administration is refusing to fund its own Vision adequately. They would rather cancel missions from the very part of NASA that has been succeeding so gloriously -- the programs that have brought us Mars Exploration Rovers, Cassini, Stardust, Deep Impact and, of course, the Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA actually rewrote -- most likely under pressure from the Administration -- NASA's long-standing Mission Statement, the very foundation of everything the agency has strived, and today strives, to achieve.

They had the audacity to remove the words "to understand and protect the Earth" as one of NASA's primary goals. This may, at first hearing, sound like a small change, but its true import is astonishing in its flagrant misunderstanding of science and of our own planet!From global warming, hurricanes, tsunamis and other devastating weather phenomena, to deforestation, the plunder of our oceans, and the opening of the ozone hole, among many other crucial research programs...NASA's scientists -- Earth and other planetary scientists alike -- are there working. Much of the knowledge of these subjects has been helped by our exploration of other worlds. (((It doesn't take a grant from Exxon--Mobil to figure that one out.)))

What's more, vital knowledge about our Earth is directly applied to the space program -- to the exploration of the cosmos, to missions in near-Earth orbit, to the dangers of asteroids and comets, to the existence of black holes, and to the impact of the Sun on Earth and other planets.

Now, in yet another slap at the value and future of Space Science and Exploration, NASA head Mike Griffin unceremoniously requested the resignations of two distinguished scientists from the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). A third resigned immediately thereafter. These are seasoned veterans with long records of, and a dedication to, working with NASA. They are also vocal supporters of Space Science, bold individuals who objected to the Administration's mandate that is forcing NASA to dramatically scale down a host of science projects.

The scientists asked to resign were Eugene Levy, Rice University Provost and Planetary Society President Wesley T. Huntress Jr., former chief of science at NASA and now an astrochemist at the Carnegie Institution. Charles Kennel, highly respected Director of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and former chief of Earth sciences at NASA, was the third to resign.

Whether these actions were political, or "merely" designed to limit advice to that which was already decided by the Bush Administration, they do not bode well for the future of science at NASA. NASA head Mike Griffin is clearly between a rock and a hard place.

How can we stand by and let Space Science and Exploration die?

None of us can afford to retreat into the comfort of silence and apathy. We do that at our own peril. For the obliteration of science and missions of discovery will surely affect all of us and future generations.

This is not just about NASA, it's about us, the Members of The Planetary Society. You, me, all of us Society Members around the world are the beacon of hope here. We are the ones with the clout to reverse this threatened decline of science. And we are the ones with the tools and the power to fight back.

Together, we will make it happen! To help, these are the first steps you must take:

First, sign a petition to President George W. Bush. By signing this petition, you will be sending President Bush your strong message that his attempt to obliterate science and exploration is a failed policy, and a dangerous one.
Sign the petition at:

Second, send an emergency contribution to the Society. We're going to make noise, big noise -- through petitions like the one you're signing today, through ads in major newspapers and magazines, press conferences, direct mail and the Internet.
Donate online at:

We have the support of scientists and other respected experts all over the world who are lending their names and voices to the Society's Save Our Science Campaign. But it will take money - a lot of money - to make this Campaign a success.

We have some funds, but we're a bare-bones non-profit that tries to keep our expenses as low as possible. That's why we must rely on Members like you and other generous supporters to help us foot the bill for all the critical actions I've just described.

The more we raise, the more successful we'll be. We'll use every gift wisely to fight these attacks, stop the obliteration of science and exploration, and, hopefully, get NASA back on the right track.

Will you help? We're really counting on you. Thanks.

Louis Friedman

More like this

Can you tell me more about the Astrobiology Program sometime, please? Thanks. Jason

By Jason Grossman (not verified) on 08 Dec 2006 #permalink

Man, it seems like Bush isn't even concerned about politics and is just trying to spite scientists now. Does the guy just hate us or something? Was he molested by a guy in a lab coat?

This Administration's track record for support of science has been abysmal. So NASA under the Bush Administration is cutting funding for scientific research involving origin of life? Perhaps Bush figures "Casey Luskin said it, I believe it, that settles it!"

This reinforces an idea I've had for some time now: Bush has no intention of going back to the moon, let alone Mars, but rather intends to effectively gut the agency. Set NASA impossible tasks (given its resources), prod it into gutting its core science missions in an effort to at least try to afford them, act shocked when NASA formally requests the mountains of additional cash it will need to move forward, write off the moon/Mars efforts as a mistake, and conveniently forget to restore NASA's gutted science.