Friday, 31 May 96 Washington, DC
1. BUDGET RESOLUTION: HOUSE CUTS THREATEN BASIC RESEARCH AT DOE.
Based on the House version of the Budget Resolution (WN 17 May 96), the House Appropriations Committee proposes to slash $1.3Bfrom the FY 97 allocation for Energy and Water--on top of the
$0.5B cut last year. The Office of Management and Budget warns
that such a cut translates into big trouble for DOE programs in basic physics and biology at universities. Maybe the Senate canhelp. Last week, the Senate approved a budget that includes $5B more for domestic discretionary programs than the House version;
House and Senate Budget Committees will meet Wednesday to resolve their differences. Meanwhile, John Myers (R-IN), chair of the
House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, delayed markup of the FY 97 spending bill in hopes that the House will agreeto an increase. Last night, the House rejected an amendment by
Martin Sabo (D-MN) to instruct House conferees to agree to theextra $5B, but House Budget Committee chair John Kasich (R-OH),did not rule out a compromise. The House does not oppose basic research--members just need to be better informed of DOE's role.
2. APPROPRIATIONS: NSF AND NASA GET SMALL INCREASE IN FY 97 BILL.
With Congress hoping to wrap things up by July 4, the HUD/VA/IA
Appropriations Subcommittee chair Jerry Lewis (R-CA) decided notto wait for the budget conference. In a bill that seeks to avoid the confrontations of last year, NASA is up slightly at $14B; NSF
research would increase $108M--less than the President's request,but still 4.7% above FY 96. Meanwhile on the floor, the Housepassed the (yawn) Omnibus Science bill on a voice vote. It was bitterly debated for two days and dozens of amendments were considered even though the bill is of almost no consequence. The
Senate hasn't bothered to take up last year's science bill yet.
3. HIGH FRONTIER: NEW COMMERCIAL SPACE VENTURES DARE TO BE BOLD.
Still reeling, so to speak, from the tethered satellite debacle
(WN 1 Mar 96), astronauts on board Endeavor tried the new $3Mlogo-adorned micro-gravity Coke machine, developed with Coca-
Cola. With the world watching, they got--foam. It finallyworked, but Coke was 7-up staged by Pepsi, which cut a seven-figure deal with cosmonauts on Mir to inflate a giant replica ofa Pepsi can while space walking. Meanwhile in New York, Forever
Bound, Inc. wants to send your DNA to the stars. The trip willtake thousands of years; launch is planned for 1 Jan, 2001. All you have to do is provide the DNA and $45. In Houston, Celestis
Inc. has arranged to loft the cremated remains of Princeton spacephysicist Gerard O'Neill--and some former V-2 rocket scientists--into orbit on a commercial launcher. O'Neill, you may recall,wrote "The High Frontier," in which he proposed putting thousands of people in "space colonies," for reasons that remain unclear. Alas, he will stay in orbit for only a year. Then, if we take adeep breath, there will a be little Gerard O'Neill in all of us.