A session of the recent AAAS conference in Washington dealt with scientists’ reactions to the Bush Administration’s science policy and budget. The end of an AP article about the session discusses what two of the panelists, Rosina Bierbaum, dean of the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment; and Neal Lane of Rice University, former NSF director, had to say about NASA:
NASA has gotten a budget boost, but most of the new money will be going to the space shuttle, space station and Bush’s plan to explore the moon and Mars. What is suffering is the space agency’s scientific research efforts, [Bierbaum] said.
“Moon and Mars is basically going to eat everybody’s lunch,” she said.
Lane said Bush’s moon and Mars exploration effort has not excited the public and has no clear goals or plans.
He said Bush’s moon-Mars initiative “was poorly carried out and the budget is not there to do the job so science (at NASA) will really get hurt.”
Interestingly, Lane was advising Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) last year on space issues.
Meanwhile, a small California newspaper, the Paradise Post, reports on what a local astronomy professor, Jim Regas of Cal State Chico, has to say on the subject. Regas said that NASA doesn’t have “any business attempting an expensive project like putting a man on Mars” because of a cost he estimates (without explanation) of being around $400 billion. He would rather see $1-2 billion spent repairing Hubble.
Regas clearly favors machines to men: “If we’re taking men out of planes on Earth, why in the world would anybody want to put people in these rockets and go to Mars? It’s a million times more dangerous and more expensive… Given the advancement in robots and technology, sending people anywhere is a colossal waste of money. The only caveat in this whole thing is that I bet you the Chinese are going to send men to the moon, and it’s going to become political.”