Science Feels Threatened by Bush Space Policy

April 26th, 2004

Posted by: admin

A New York Times article suggests scientists and some politicians are nervous about science funding at NASA. Chairman of the House Science Committee Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) asks of President Bush’s space exploration initiative, “Will funding this initiative rather than other programs move science forward or hold it back?” The article quotes a number of physicists and astronomers worried about exploration trumping ‘good’ science at the agency.

The decision to cancel Servicing Mission 4 to Hubble has stirred up a hornets nest of criticism of NASA in the science community. Yet NASA budgets for space science continue to show healthly growth. (See our category on R&D fudning.) The science camp worries that exploration will short change their research goals, while the human flight camp strives to regain the lost luster of the early manned flight program.

President Bush’s focus on exploration has exacerbated the tension between these tribes, and the cancellation of SM4 has sent the science community into a panic. However, US space policy, and NASA in particular, would benefit if these two tribes could focus more on cooperation than turf battles. Science and exploration can go hand in hand, but by crying foul the scientific community may forgo an opportunity to garner real scientific gains from a growing, robust program of exploration.

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