Friday, 7 Septermber 1990 Washington, DC
1. MIT ASKS NATIONAL SCIENCE BOARD TO RECONSIDER MAGNET DECISION.
The president of MIT, Paul Gray, in a letter to the NSB, charged
that the Board was misled by NSF officials. Memoranda from NSF
director Erich Bloch and assistant director David Sanchez urged
the Board to award the National High Field Magnet Laboratory to
Florida State, contrary to recommendations of three peer review
panels (WN 24 Aug 90).
Gray says the memoranda were incomplete
and unbalanced and did not convey to the Board the consequences
for US competitiveness in magnet research. David Litster, the
director of MIT's Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory, which has for
30 years been a world class magnet facility, points out in an
accompanying letter that the site visit panel concluded that FSU
would need five years just to reach the present level of the MIT
facility--assuming things go as planned. Moreover, FSU is
proposing to purchase its magnets from France. The decision to
create the new facility was based on the warning of the 1988
Richardson-Seitz panel that the US was slipping behind Europe and
Japan in high magnetic field capability. MIT also claims the
cost sharing issue has been distorted, that, in fact, the cost to
the NSF would be about the same for the two proposals. The NSB
has been an unfailing rubber stamp for Erich Bloch--but Bloch is
gone. Nonetheless, few observers believe MIT can win on appeal.
2. PERSISTENT PLUMBING PROBLEMS PLAGUE SHUTTLE MISSIONS.
is supposed to be at bat, but it sprang another hydrogen leak.
If NASA can't fix it pretty soon, it will leave the launch pad
sideways. Discovery is on deck, faced with an October launch
window for the Ulysses spacecraft--that is, if they can fix the
ammonia leak in Discovery's cooling system. Waiting in the hole
is Atlantis, which struck out in July with its own hydrogen leak
(WN 27 Jul 90). Columbia will conduct observations with the
Astro-1, consisting of three UV telescopes that have been delayed
since the 1986 Challenger disaster, plus an X-ray telescope.
Ulysses, which used to be called International Solar Polar, also
dates back to pre-Challenger days. The European-built probe will
use the gravity of Jupiter to deflect it out of the ecliptic and
into orbit over the poles of the sun. The US was committed to
build a second solar explorer, but reneged. Challenger caused
NASA to delay Ulysses' launch more than four years. A requirement
for future space station crews may be a willingness to fast.
3. IF THIS IS 7 SEPT, WHERE'S THE DOE'S HARD ESTIMATE ON THE SSC?
The DOE was supposed to reconcile four cost estimates, ranging
from $7.8B to a reported $11.7B, to arrive at an official figure
for Congress by
17 Aug (WN 17 Aug 90). Instead DOE asked for a
postponement until today; now they say it will be next week. The
official line is that they are busy inventing an energy policy.
Speculation ranges from efforts to jawbone the ICE group into
changing its assumptions, to a desire to quietly slip the report
under the door during the confusion as Congress returns.