Friday, March 19, 2004
1. HUBBLE: A DISASTER DELAYED ITS BIRTH AND MAY HASTEN ITS DEATH.
Adm. Gehman, chair of the Columbia Investigation Board described a mission to Hubble as "slightly more risky" than to the ISS. But in Sunday’s NY Times, NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe reaffirmed his decision to let Hubble die rather than risk a shuttle repair mission. It’s difficult to find anyone who thinks O’Keefe, who is neither scientist nor astronaut, should be the one making that decision, and Sen. Mikulski (D-MD) warned O’Keefe not to prejudge the outcome of a National Academy of Sciences study of the issue. The irony is that NASA insisted that Hubble be designed to be launched and serviced by the shuttle. The launch was delayed for three years by the Challenger disaster and the Columbia disaster now threatens to accelerate its demise by three years.
2. MISSILE DEFENSE: UNITED STATES WINS CLOSE GAME AT THE BUZZER
You can sleep better now; Tuesday, March 16, a computer-simulated missile attack by a country that looked a lot like North Korea was repelled without a single American city being hit. I called Puff Panegyric in the Missile Defense Agency press office to offer my congratulations. "Yes, we’re feeling pretty good about it," Puff rasped, his voice still a little hoarse from cheering. "The goal now is to complete initial deployment of a rudimentary defense by 2 November." I smelled a story. "Golly Puff, is that when intelligence estimates say North Korea will have a working missile and a nuclear warhead?" "That’s classified," he said.
3. POLYGRAPH: IS TELLING THE TRUTH PUBLICLY AS BAD AS LYING?
About a year ago the National Academy of Sciences completed a review of scientific evidence on the polygraph, "The Polygraph and Lie Detection." It concluded that the use of polygraph tests for DOE employee security screening was unacceptable because of the high rate of false positives. DOE took the position that a lot of false positives must mean the test is very sensitive, and simply reissued its old polygraph policies without change (WN 18 Apr 03). A nuclear scientist at Sandia National Laboratories, Alan Zelicoff, thought that was pretty dumb, which it was, and he said so publicly. Sandia took disciplinary action, and Zelicoff says he was forced to resign.