Friday, 28 June 1991 Washington, DC
1. EUPHORIA OF SPACE STATION SUPPORTERS YIELDS TO REALITY
in the weeks following the June 6 vote of the House
to fully fund Freedom (WN 7 Jun 91).
It meant elimination of key space science programs and the Earth
Observing System, but many of those voting for Freedom assumed
the deleted NASA programs would be restored in the Senate. It is
now clear that the HUD/VA/IA Appropriations Subcommittee in the
Senate faces the same restraints as its House counterpart; if the
NASA programs are restored, it could force a cut in programs at
NSF and EPA. But the odor of compromise is in the air; a letter
in yesterday's Washington Post, signed by Len Fisk, head of
NASA's Space Science Office and John Bahcall, who chaired the
recent report on priorities in Astronomy (WN 22 Mar 91), calls for the Senate to
"maintain a balanced space program."
2. ENGINEERING GROUPS BEGIN SPEAKING OUT ON THE SPACE
At a Tuesday press conference, the world's largest
organization of engineers, the IEEE, supported the concept of a
space station, but declared bluntly that: "We do not support
further funding of the space station program as it is currently
conceived." The IEEE contends that the limited biomedical mission
of the station could be accomplished for a total cost of less
than $10B. Space News reports that one group of space engineers
is even calling for the 20-year-old back-up Skylab to be rescued
from the Air and Space Museum, where it has been visited by
millions of tourists. The group says it could be refurbished and
launched for about $4B.
3. ARE THERE ANY MECHANISMS FOR BIOEFFECTS FROM POWERLINE
The question was hotly debated this week in Salt
Lake City at the Bioelectromagnetic Society meeting. Most
physicists are skeptical since the induced fields at the cellular
level are many orders of magnitude below the thermal noise limit.
A resonant interaction has been suggested as a way around this,
but the pass band would have to be much less than 0.01 Hz. Could
we have been so unlucky as to select a power system frequency
that so precisely matches a natural resonance of our cells? And
could another resonance at 50 Hz affect Europeans the same way?
Not to worry. The power system is not up to that precision.
Frequency corrections are applied in 0.02 Hz increments when the
accumulated error exceeds 8 seconds.
4. IRAQI NUCLEAR PROGRAM CREATES NEW VERIFICATION CONCERNS.
With tensions rising over Iraqi refusal to permit
International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors into a suspected
nuclear facility, arms control experts predict that multilateral
verification treaties will be more important in the next decade
than bilateral agree-ments between superpowers. The changing
world order since the end of the cold war was marked yesterday by
the agreement of South Africa to sign the Nuclear Non-
Proliferation Treaty and submit its nuclear facilities to IAEA
inspectors. Iraq is also a signatory. As the need for
verification spreads to ever smaller nations, it will create a
need for cheap inspection technologies.