Saturday, November 13, 2010


Bob Park writes:
The James Webb Space Telescope is in trouble. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who chairs the appropriations subcommitte that oversees NASA, clearly saw trouble back in June when she requested a review of the NASA budget. The review came in this week. The bottom line is that the James Webb space telescope is a year behind schedule and $200 million short. Christopher Scolese, associate administrator of NASA, agreed with the report's findings, but could not see where they could find the money. I should tell him the secret, NASA is bifurcated. The NASA that’s the envy of the world, we might call "Exploration NASA," it’s a science agency that discovers exoplanets and puts rovers on Mars. Then there’s "Carnival NASA." It arranges trips to space for people with too much disposable income, and looks for water on the Moon to make rocket fuel.
Thanks to Senator Mikulski for her wisdom in calling for the review, and to the people of Maryland for reelecting her.

Dr. Park is probably likes carnivals, as I do, if they don't cost too much and don't interfere with more important things. We spend a lot of money on entertainment (and on less worthy activities) and NASA has provided some great entertainment over the years. Of course, the Hubble Space Telescope, which is to be replaced by the Webb, provided a part of that entertainment as will the Webb when it gets into operation.

Still, I agree with his fundamental point, which I take to be that we should not delay (much less abandon) important scientific work in favor of meretricious distractions.

No comments: