Friday, 2 June 2000
1. **COMPTON: NASA REFUSES TO CONSIDER LAST MINUTE APPEALS.**
The final maneuver that will send the venerable Compton Gamma Ray
Observatory into the Pacific Ocean is set for Saturday midnight.
The most spectacular discovery of this remarkable satellite,
which was launched nine years ago, is that giant gamma ray bursts
originate outside the galaxy. NASA says the satellite is being
scuttled for safety reasons. It's down to its last gyro, and
NASA headquarters feared it would tumble out of control, creating
a hazard on reentry. But scientists say it didn't have to come
to this; engineers at Goddard had devised a procedure that they
believed would permit a controlled reentry with no gyro. But
NASA refused to allow a test of the idea. The safest thing, a
NASA official said, is to deorbit as soon as possible. Sure, and
it would be even safer not to launch in the first place.
2. MISSILE DEFENSE: EVERYBODY HAS A DIFFERENT PLAN.
The position of the APS Council
is that a decision on deployment should not be made until a system can be shown to
be effective against reasonable countermeasures. Last week, in a
speech at the National Press Club, Gov. George W. Bush was also
calling for a delay, but for a different reason. He said that as
President he would build a much larger missile defense to protect
not only the US, but its allies and overseas interests as well.
At the same time, Bush said he would unilaterally make deep
reductions in the nuclear arsenal. This week, President Clinton
sought to reassure allies by promising that, if an NMD system is
built, the technology would be shared with "civilized" countries.
No one seemed very reassured. While there is little prospect of
a major arms control agreement at the Moscow summit this weekend,
Russian President Vladimir Putin is floating a proposal that the
US and Russia jointly develop a shield against "rogue" states.
3. NMD II: "WHERE WILL YOU BE WHEN THE MISSILES ARE LAUNCHED?"
So begins a scary 30-second TV ad that runs during local news in
the Washington, DC area. "America has no defense against missile
attacks--Clinton and Gore have left us unprotected. Nearing the
election, they admit maybe we do need a missile defense, but only
a limited defense and only with Russia's permission." The ads
are paid for by the Coalition to Protect America Now.
4. NMD III: YES, BUT WILL IT WORK?
Skeptics of the proposed
missile defense system showed that they too can deliver a sound
bite. Joseph Cirincione, of the Carnegie Non-Proliferation
Project, summed it up Wednesday on ABC World News Tonight: "I'd
like to have the country protected by technological means. I
would also like a cure for cancer. I'd like a really good light
beer, but some things are beyond our technological capabilities."
The Asian-American boycott of federal laboratories.