Friday, 30 June 95 Washington, DC
1. WHY DID YOU SAY WE'RE BUILDING A DORMITORY IN LOW-EARTH ORBIT?
Alex McPherson of UC-Riverside testified in May that it is the consensus view of users that the station "will serve as a unique research platform for a broad array of scientific disciplines." Oh, sure! But members of Congress are more original. Yesterday, Ralph Hall (D-TX) dusted off a justification he's been using for years (WN 21 May 93): "It's for people who have cancer--we haven't found a cure here on Earth, we owe it to them to look for a cure in space. That's why I'm still in Congress." Freshman Steve Stockman (R-TX) also ran for Congress to save the station. But his reason is somewhat different. He explained in January, without a trace of embarrassment, that it was because his wife is employed by the project (WN 6 Jan 95). Dave Weldon (R-FL) thought he found support for the space station in the Bible, "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18). But a new GAO report predicts that the cost of the project, which was first estimated at $8B and since cut back five times, would eventually hit $94B, calling to mind another passage: "All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not filled" (Ecclesiastes 1:7).
2. PCAST PANEL SAYS NICE THINGS ABOUT THE FUSION PROGRAM--BUT.
The panel, headed by John Holdren, told the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology that the importance and promise of fusion justified DOE's plan to increase funding from $366M in FY96 to $860M in 2002--but it's unrealistic to expect Congress to agree! It recommended extending TFTR for three years and dropping TPX, with funding flat at $320M. That's still more than the $229M in the House Appropriations Bill. The bill also sets $1M aside to study fusion from sonoluminescence, a favorite of Energy Subcommittee chair Dana Rohrabacher (WN 17 Feb 95), but at least there was no set-aside for mining helium-3 on the Moon.
3. HOW STEALTHY IS IT? B-2 BOMBER IS SHOT DOWN IN THE SENATE.
The Senate Armed Services Committee decided against building any more of the $2.2B bombers, which are too expensive to risk in actual hostilities. Instead, the committee voted for a third Sea Wolf submarine to roam the oceans uncontested. In the House, the vote was to scrap the Sea Wolf and build the Stealth. That sets the stage for a rough House-Senate conference. The concern is that the two chambers will compromise by funding both programs.
4. ENOLA GAY IS UNSCATHED BY FLAK OVER THE AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM.
A scaled-down exhibit of the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb, consisting only of a portion of the fuselage and comments of the crew, opened Wednesday amidst protests that there should have been debate about the decision to drop the bomb (WN 27 Jan 95). There was heavy security and a few arrests. Officials were reacting to a rumored plan to deface the plane with red paint, as happened during preparation of the controversial exhibit.
THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY (Note: Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the APS, but they should be.)