Friday, 14 December 1990 Washington, DC
1. ERRATUM: WE HAD THE WRONG NORTH CAROLINA CONGRESSMAN MOVING
Appropriations in last week's What's New. It is David E. Price
(D-NC) who is moving from the Committee on Science, Space and
Technology to Appropriations, not his colleague Tim Valentine, as
we reported. We apologize for the mixup. We have learned that
David Skaggs (D-CO) will also move from SS&T to Appropriations.
2. AUGUSTINE COMMITTEE SAYS NASA SHOULD PUT SPACE SCIENCE FIRST!
The Advisory Committee on the Future of the US Space Program con-
founded the skeptics, including What's New, by releasing a report
that would, if adopted, transform NASA. The panel ranked space
science above space stations, aerospace planes, manned missions
to Mars, and all the other engineering spectaculars on which NASA
has focused. The panel also called for drastic rethinking of the
space station: "We do not believe that Space Station Freedom, as
we now know it, can be justified solely on the basis of the (non-
biological) science it can perform, much of which can be conduct-
ed on earth, or by robotic spacecraft at lower cost." Dependence
on the shuttle should be reduced by developing a new unmanned
heavy-lift launch vehicle. But how could the panel finesse the
delicate subject of a manned expedition to Mars--which President
Bush personally established as a goal? The panel wisely proposed
a "go-as-you-pay" plan, under which the schedule for the mission
to Mars would be determined by the availability of funds. Forget
it! In Washington, funds do not become available by themselves.
3. DID ANYBODY BRIEF THE AUGUSTINE PANEL ON THE BUDGET AGREEMENT?
The otherwise clear-eyed report assumes real growth in NASA fund-
ing of 10% per year. But the budget agreement dictates no real
growth for domestic discretionary spending for the next two years
(WN 2 Nov 90), and any NASA
increase would probably come at NSF's
expense. The impending battle is being called "Darmageddon."
4. DOES ASTRONOMY STIMULATE REPRODUCTION OF MT. GRAHAM SQUIRRELS?
Environmentalists lost a bitter three-year legal fight to prevent
the University of Arizona from constructing an observatory atop
Mt. Graham. They claimed it would threaten the sole habitat of
an endangered specie of red squirrel, but in August the Forest
Service ruled against them. The University lost no time clearing
the site and beginning construction. And so what happened to the
squirrel population? The number of Mt. Graham red squirrels has
doubled since last spring, according to a Forest Service census.
5. IS THE NSF BEING EVICTED FROM THE DOWNTOWN WASHINGTON LOCATION
it has occupied for 25 years? Employees were first informed in a
memo from acting director Bernthal that they would not be moving;
Sen. Mikulski (D-MD) had deleted $5.5M for the move from the NSF
budget after a site across the river in Virginia was picked over
suburban Maryland. But a second memo says the General Services
Administration has ordered NSF to proceed with the Virginia move.