Saturday, May 21, 2005

Save PlanetFinder Program - NASA's wild ride

There is an online petition to save the PlanetFinder program at NASA. Specifically the SIM and TPF missions.
US citizens and non-NASA employees only, as I understand it.

So what is going on? Well, as I mentioned the other night, NASA's budget squeeze has come to a head and something's got to pop. With earmarks, HST rescue (or is just a shuttle deorbit now?) back on, and NGSTJWST is experiencing technical difficulties.

So, the current swing on the roundabout is to "defer" the PlanetFinder/Navigator programs to get JWST to phase C/D and cover the other shortfalls. This basically stops work on these programs as I understand it.
(Coincidentally, the changes seem to involve all non-Mars $ heading for the west coast stopping at the edge of the beltway, strange that. Be interesting to see how the west coasters respond.)

So, there's an online petition to try to boost support as a delegation heads to DC next week to discuss the issue with some Congress critters. They may possibly have picked the absolutely worst day (wednesday) in congressional history to discuss actual budget issues, since the Congress seems involved in some obscure procedural spat - must not have anything better to do right now, slow time I guess.

In a rational world, none of this would happen. In a semi-rational world this will settle down to some sensible compromise.
The way things are going, that will require both sides to fight their ground. Which is a dumb way to arrange science priorities. Didn't think anything would make me long for the ponderousness of the ESA committees.

Ah well, BE was like the 2003 policy (expired); and planets are soooooo 2004 (tired); and 2005? er well if anyone knows please tell me, 'cause I see no sense in what is going on - beyond petty turf battles and institutional politics.


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