Friday, 20 Aug 1993 Washington, DC
1. WAS "STAR WARS" A HOAX DEVISED TO SHOVE USSR INTO BANKRUPTCY?
The New York Times this week charges that it was. If so, some
will claim that it was a successful hoax--at least the USSR went
belly-up, and spending on programs to counter Star Wars may have
nudged it along. Alas, the $30B spent on SDI nudged the US in
the same direction. Four former Reagan administration officials
revealed to the Times that a 1984 SDI missile interception test
was rigged. The effect on the Soviets is not known, but the test
certainly persuaded Congress to increase spending on SDI. Some
scientists were not fooled: in a June '85 Physics Today article,
Gerold Yonas, SDI chief scientist, referred to the '84 test as a
"brilliant success," but Wolfgang Panofsky, writing in the same
issue, described the target as "cooperative." He could not have
known how cooperative: the target transmitted a homing signal--
and even if the interceptor missed, the target would blow up.
2. SENATORS ARE RELUCTANT TO COMMIT THEMSELVES ON SUPERCOLLIDER!
Its future will be decided by the Senate after Labor Day. But a
poll taken by the Dallas Morning News just before the Senate left
town found only 11 senators who said they would vote for the SSC.
It's not unusual for senators to delay making a commitment until
the last minute in hopes of cutting a deal, but it's ominous that
6 of the 54 senators who voted for the SSC last year say they are
going to vote against it this time. Of those who opposed it, none
said they would change. And even if the Senate restores the SSC,
it may face double jeopardy: to gain support for his budget plan,
the President promised to consider a recision bill later in the
fall that would eliminate programs that had already been passed.
3. IS THE PRESIDENT'S SCIENCE ADVISOR FINALLY ASSEMBLING A TEAM?
The Office of Science and Technology got off to a fast start in
January when Jack Gibbons was confirmed as Director. The next
step was to fill the four Associate Director positions, but it
was not until this month that Lionel S. Johns, who came from OTA
with Gibbons, was confirmed as Associate Director for Technology,
leaving three AD positions still to be filled. Last week, the
President announced his "intention to nominate" Marci Greenwood
to be AD for Science, and Jane Wales for International Affairs
and National Security. Greenwood, Dean of Graduate Studies at UC
Davis, is an expert on obesity; Wales is chair of the Cooperative
Security Program of the Carnegie Corporation. That still leaves
Environment to be filled. We are told the President intends to
announce his "intention to nominate" Robert Watson of NASA for
the job. Watson is chief scientist of Mission to Planet Earth.
4. HOUSTON WILL BE HEADQUARTERS FOR THE REDESIGNED SPACE STATION!
Consolidation at one location was expected, but the Johnson Space
Center in Houston is also home to the Shuttle program. That led
to concern that Houston would resist Russian participation, but
the White House directed NASA to give the Russians a major role.