Friday, 13 May 94 Washington, DC
1. BUDGET: CONGRESS TURNS OFF THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL.
Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee divvied up the FY
95 budget among the 13 Subcommittees. Only Military Construction
was up from last year. Energy and Water came out $81M below the
President's request. VA-HUD-IA, which includes both NASA and NSF,
came out $361M below the President's request; Subcommittee chair
Louis Stokes (D-OH) said he had "grave concerns about whether
this allocation can fund the space station." The specter of the
SSC hangs over the space station debate; supporters of the space
station like to point out that the money saved from the SSC last
year did not go to science. Actually, no one in their right mind
expects savings from the space station to go to science either--the
important thing is stop the money from going the other way.
2. SPACECRAFT MALFUNCTIONS! IS CLEMENTINE LOST AND GONE FOREVER?
Having flawlessly performed a multispectral lunar mapping mission
(WN 1 Apr 94), the "faster, cheaper,
better" space probe survived
a political death threat only to suffer a potentially crippling
component failure. Clementine was built for the Ballistic Missile
Defense Organization to test components of a space-based missile
defense system, but BMDO is now focused on ground-based defenses
and is anxious to eradicate the Star Wars image. So the Pentagon
attempted to terminate Clementine in mid-mission, angering some
members of Congress who see the spacecraft as a model NASA should
be emulating. Alas, a steering thruster that failed to turn off,
depleting its fuel and leaving the spacecraft spinning, may have
done what political correctness could not. There is still some
hope of salvaging a visit to the asteroid Geographos by using the
main thrusters, which have ample fuel, to slow down the spin.
3. THE LOBBYING DISCLOSURE ACT: ARE FACULTY MEMBERS LOBBYISTS?
Lobby reform legislation has passed both Houses of Congress and
is expected to go to conference soon. Both versions would require
a lot of university presidents and government affairs officers to
register, but the two bills also seem to require universities to
report visits of individual faculty to their congresspersons--even
if they are invited to provide expert advice to the member.
4. TELLER CONTRADICTS THE "SCANDALOUS ACCUSATIONS" AGAINST FERMI.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Edward Teller joined in the
widespread denunciation of the "memoirs" of a Stalin era assassin
(WN 6 May 94).
He points out, as others have, that Enrico Fermi
was fiercely opposed to Stalinism. Teller says he can understand
Sudoplatov's desire to justify himself as a master spy who could
manipulate great scientists, but he has "a more difficult time
understanding the American media that gave nationwide publicity
to this book because of one sensational chapter that is certainly
wrong in some essential parts." Unfortunately, even condemnation
contributes to publicity and could increase sales of the book.