According to New Scientist the fate of NASA’s science budget is pretty gloomy:
NASA’s proposed cuts to its science budget will have a devastating impact on astronomy and Earth-science research for years to come, an expert panel told a US congressional committee on Thursday.
Panellists urged NASA to restore funding for research and analysis grants, and low-cost missions â€“ even if that comes at the expense of more ambitious missions, such as the James Webb Space Telescope.
They were particularly concerned about $350 million to $400 million in cuts to research and analysis grants over the next five years â€“ including a 50% cut to astrobiology research.
These grants provide funding to many university researchers â€“ particularly those starting their careers, the panelists said. “We’re at a tipping point,” Moore said. If the budget is passed as it stands, young researchers will begin to leave the field because the cuts send the message that the US “is not interested in Earth and space science”.
But here is the really depressing part:
Science committee chairman Sherwood Boehlert said the committee would push Congress to appropriate more money for science funding, but added that it would be a “tough sell” in the tight budget climate.
So he asked each panellist whether he or she would be willing to delay or alter the expensive “flagship” mission in each of their disciplines, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, in order to restore cuts to smaller missions and research grants.
The panellists had reservations but all agreed that research and analysis funding should take priority. “I think it’s impressive that the leaders here today would put up their first-born to save the others,” said science committee member Bart Gordon. But the fact that such choices may be necessary made it “the most depressing hearing I’ve sat through”, he said.
This is mind boggling to contemplate. Once upon a time we had a balanced budget and this kind of basic research was not in danger. Now, if I am reading the article correctly, things are so bad that… well, let me quote one of those testifying:
He stressed that NASA must retain and train people with the technical know-how to launch scientific spacecraft. “You can’t have a world-class flight mission without world-class people,” he said. “The bottom line is the nation’s future is being mortgaged.”
It seems to me that there has been a monumental failure on the part of government that we are in this situation. I always thought that people like Chris Moony were overstating the case about the “Republican War on Science” but this makes me a believer. I mean a real believer. Don’t get me wrong. I have been aware of a lot of the stories about suppressing scientific research the doesn’t fit republican ideaology – the recent problem with PR people at NASA trying to censor Hanson for example, but I always thought the incidents were unrelated to each other. Now I think it is all part and parcel of republican strategy. I can come up with no other explanation for the totally messed up state of funding for scientific research in America…
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