Hmmm… is it a side effect of Thanksgiving turkey leftovers that has resulted in so many newspaper editorial writers turning their attention to NASA? An editorial in Tuesday’s Philadelphia Inquirer [free registration required] discusses NASA’s FY2005 budget. Like the New York Times yesterday, the Inquirer is skeptical about continuing the shuttle and station: “Why continue spending on the shuttles and space station if the results will be of dubious scientific value?” The editorial concludes that “with a federal budget awash in red ink, President Bush and NASA must make sure they’re committing money to the projects likely to yield the greatest scientific benefits.” (Yes, Rand, I can hear your rejoinder already.)
The Palm Beach Post weighs in on a much smaller part of the budget Tuesday: a lack of funding for the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM). Readers may recall that NASA announced earlier this year it was shutting down the spacecraft, which is used in part to support hurricane forecasts, only to reverse that decision under pressure from the scientific community and Congress. However, the FY05 budget failed to include the estimated $28-36 million needed to keep TRMM operating through 2006. “[T]he budget cut for potentially life-saving research is untimely, given President Bush’s push for exorbitant manned missions to the moon and to Mars,” the editorial claims. “Such glamour projects tend to get more attention and money.” Ironically, the editorial undercuts its support for TRMM by including a quote from National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield, who said that what forecasters really need is more aircraft reconnaissance of hurricanes.