Friday, 7 May 1993 Washington, DC
1. WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT COLLISIONS WITH ASTEROIDS AND COMETS?
An international workshop organized by SDIO concluded that, while
such collisions have played a major role in the evolution of life
on Earth, the probability of a civilization-threatening impact in
any given year is extremely small. Therefore, the emphasis should
be on detection and physical characterization. On a less global
scale, concern was expressed that collisions in the 1-megaton-
TNT range could be mistaken for a nuclear explosion and trigger a
response; impacts of that size occur about once per century. The
participants were split on the need to construct or test systems
to deflect or destroy asteroids until a specific threat is found.
Edward Teller spoke forcefully on behalf of a program to nuke a
few non-threatening asteroids in preparation for the real thing.
Somebody once observed, "You got a problem? Eddie's got a bomb!"
2. "ARE WE GOING TO FREEZE OR BURN?" REP. RALPH HALL (D-TX) ASKS.
Five years ago experts predicted that the polar caps would melt.
On Thursday, a NASA scientist told the House Space Subcommittee
that he expects the caps to grow, at least for the next five
years. The Subcommittee wants to know if NASA's Earth Observing
System (EOS) will settle this dispute. It can't if it doesn't get
built. In typically NASA fashion, it began as a grandiose $17B
project; then it was "restructured" to cost $11B; after which it
was "redesigned" to get it down to $8B. Now it faces "descoping."
"If we keep having to restructure it every two years," lamented
EOS administrator Shelby Tilford, "it will end up like the space
station." Why all the shrinkage in a program Congress sees a need
for? The director of a new Office of Technology Assessment report
on EOS identified two sources of trouble: the Space Station and
the Shuttle, which compete with EOS in a shrinking NASA budget.
3. THE WASHINGTON SHUTTLE:
o Will Happer, director of energy research at DOE, has been
fired in a dispute with an aide to Vice President Gore over the
need for UV monitors, according to Inside Energy. Martha Krebs,
LBL associate director, is reported to be in line for the job.
o Sandra Faber, a UC Santa Cruz astronomer, is reported to be
the choice to direct the NSF, but is said to have declined.
o Sidney Drell, former President of the APS, has been appointed
to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
o Rad Byerly, Staff Director of the House Science, Space, and
Technology Committee, is returning to University of Colorado.
He will be replaced by Robert Palmer, who has served as Senior
Policy Coordinator for the Committee.
o Marc Brodsky, a physicist at IBM Thomas J. Watson Research
Center, will replace the retiring Ken Ford as CEO of the AIP.