Friday, 15 May 1992 Washington, DC
1. SDI OFFICIALS QUIETLY LAY THE "STAR WARS" X-RAY LASER TO
The promise of a nuclear-pumped x-ray laser lay behind President
Reagan's call for the Strategic Defense Initiative in March 1983.
Two years later on the eve of the Reykjavik summit, Edward Teller
wrote to Paul Nitze, chief US arms negotiator, advising him that
"Excalibur," named after another mythical weapon, was ready for
"engineering development." The message was clear: Don't make any
deals; we have the upper hand. Teller's optimism, alas, was based
on a spurious experimental result. In 1990 Congress eliminated
directed energy weapons as a line in the SDI budget, but research
went on at Livermore at a low level using general research funds.
Recent top secret "leaks" have claimed progress in an apparent
effort to save the program, but SDI officials informed Congress
that no further investment in the x-ray laser is planned. RIP.
2. HIRE AMERICAN STUDENTS!
Rep. Paul Henry (R-MI)
promises that his American Math and Science Student Support Act
(WN 17 Apr 92) will counter the
downward trend in the interest level of American students in
graduate study of science and engineering. The bill would
require institutions hiring nonimmigrant alien students on
federal funds to certify that no qualified U.S. citizen is avail-
able. About 60% of foreign graduate students in the physical
sciences enjoy federal funding, only 40% of the American students
receive support. Henry argues that more American students might
be interested if we would just get rid of those foreigners.
3. HIRE AMERICAN LEGISLATORS!
SpaceCause, a lobbying
for Space Station Freedom, can reach key members of Congress by
just calling a board meeting. The lobbying arm of the National
Space Society, SpaceCause's financial supporters include Boeing,
IBM, General Dynamics, Lockheed, McDonnell Douglas, Rockwell and
TRW. Its board includes George Brown (D-CA), chair of the author-
izing committee for Freedom, and Bob Traxler (D-MI), chair of the
subcommittee responsible for space station appropriations.
4. ASTRONAUTS BAG WAYWARD SATELLITE! NASA FLUNKS ECONOMICS
Hollywood could not have scripted it better. On the eve of a
critical Senate vote on the NASA budget, with the world watching
in suspense, astronauts with the "right kind of stuff" wrestle a
five ton satellite into submission on their final attempt. How
much did it cost to save the $157M communications satellite? NASA
puts the cost of each shuttle mission at $363M, but no one else
understands this arithmetic. The shuttle program costs about $6B
per year; last year there were six shuttle flights. That comes
to $1B for each flight! Either way, its goofy economics. Daniel
Goldin, NASA's chief, defends the mission as a learning exercise
for space station assembly. NASA is learning it won't be easy.
5.HOUSE/SENATE CONFEREES DEADLOCKED ON SUBSTITUTE RESCISSION
(WN 8 May 92). Jobs (ours and theirs) are
the major concern.