NASA

NASA’s new science chief talks about research, synergy, and JWST

When John Grunsfeld took the podium Wednesday at the NASA Town Hall meeting at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Austin, Texas, he noted he was just into the sixth day of his new job as NASA’s associate administrator for science, and he had spent three of those days at the Austin conference. That meant that Grunsfeld largely addressed only in broad terms his ideas of the challenges and opportunities the space agency’s science efforts face in the current environment.

“One could say accepting the role of associate administrator at NASA is slightly crazy, and I certainly think it’s higher risk than anything I’ve ever done before,” said the former astronaut who flew on five shuttle missions, including three to service the Hubble Space Telescope. He told the astronomers who packed the ballroom for the hour-long session that “I do feel the full weight and responsibility of carrying an enormous science program to help enable all of you to be great scientists. My job is to help all of you to change the world.”

Grunsfeld indicated he would look beyond the traditional boundaries of NASA’s science programs to leverage capabilities elsewhere in the agency and get the most of out the directorate’s budget. He said he planned to work with Bill Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, “to see what synergies we have.” He cited in particular the potential use of the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket to launch large science missions. (That, of course, assumes funding will be available to build such flagship-class missions down the road, let alone afford the cost to launch them on the SLS.) He also cited potential cost reductions for science missions from using emerging launchers like the SpaceX Falcon 9, and also opportunities to use the International Space Station as a testbed to demonstrate technologies for use on future missions.

Not surprisingly, much of attention devoted to NASA’s space programs is focused on one of its biggest, and most controversial, missions, the James Webb Space Telescope. “The James Webb Space Telescope is one of the primary goals of NASA, and one of its highest priorities,” alongside utilization of the ISS and development of the SLS and Multi Purpose Crew Vehicles, he said. “That means astrophysics is very important to NASA, and we should all be happy about that.”

Grunsfeld and other NASA officials were upbeat about the “replan” of the telescope’s development developed last year. “We’ve got a really good plan going forward,” he said. “I really do feel that we have a good handle on the programmatics and the science system engineering.”

He acknowledged, though, that the program went through a tough experience last year with the replan and the threatened defunding by Congress. “It was real drama,” he said of the effort to win funding for the telescope, thanking AAS members for their efforts the Congress, which he called “a loud and clear voice about basic science research.”

“About a year ago, I didn’t know we would be having this town hall this year,” Eric Smith, deputy program director for JWST, said Monday at a separate town hall meeting devoted to JWST. That was because of the uncertainty about the telescope’s future at that time. “We are here this year, so I’m very optimistic” about the program’s future.

At Wednesday’s town hall, Grunsfeld acknowledged that NASA’s science programs are facing a “constrained” budget environment that will pose a challenge going forward, but cautioned scientists against internecine battles among the community, or between the science and human spaceflight directorates. “We are only as strong as our whole, and if we pit community against community, everybody loses,” he said.

Grunsfeld and the new acting director of the astrophysics directorate, Paul Hertz, offered few specifics about future funding, since that is pending the FY2013 budget request due for release on February 6. Both talked about the importance of “balance” among funding new missions versus existing missions versus research, but didn’t offer additional details. “I’m not planning any big radical changes,” Grunsfeld said.

While unable to take beyond the current fiscal year, Hertz noted at the town hall that astrophysics, when JWST is included (it is now a separate program but still widely perceived as part of astrophysics), accounts for over $1 billion of NASA’s budget. Therefore, he said, the agency and the scientific community need to maximize the value which that significant amount of money can provide. “That’s not small change,” he said. “We have a substantial allotment of federal funding to support the astrophysics program that we do. We have to spend it wisely.”

35 comments to NASA’s new science chief talks about research, synergy, and JWST

  • NASA Fan

    The Era of Flagships is Over. Small PI led missions don’t feed enough astronomers. Money is constrained, and it looks like less in the future.

    Look for less of everything, notwithstanding optimistic views of the future portrayed at the AAS.

  • amightywind

    I’m not thrilled with Grunsfeld or Gerstenmaier. They seem rather weak.

    “to see what synergies we have.” He cited in particular the potential use of the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket to launch large science missions.

    A demoralizingly high level of discussion for a program that has been in place since 2004. Shouldn’t we be well beyond motherhood statements by now? What do these guys do with their day? If it takes trashing the other side in increase funding, so be it!

    We are only as strong as our whole, and if we pit community against community, everybody loses,

    Oh come on! We need a full throated defense of astrophysics projects in the face of the unconscionably wasteful ISS. The ISS grabs $3 billion a year and astrophysics goes begging.

  • Doug Lassiter

    That Grunsfeld has close experience with, and is willing to reach out to, the human space flight side of the house is encouraging. But let’s face it. His job is to keep the science side of the JWST project from cratering (at least for astrophysics, and in no small measure for the agency as a whole). One can only be so ambitious with a responsibility like that hanging over your head.

    I suspect he will see to it that Earth and space-science friendly projects will be supported to some degree on ISS (e.g. proof-of-concept on science instrument assembly and servicing), but no major SMD expenditure will be supported on that. Re SLS, there are small-scale science teams that can be kept alive in anticipation of it, but with no metal getting cut. Very smart considering that the future of SLS is hardly assured.

    Probably the most important thing he could do is try to cultivate some long range understanding of the relevance of human space flight to SMD The former SMD director didn’t want to touch that with a ten foot pole. Right now, it’s pretty much just Mars, which is so long term that it matters rather little. No, most of the science you’d want to do on the Moon doesn’t need boots ‘n suits down there. Grunsfeld should be out to identify potential opportunities, but they won’t really get acted on on his watch.

  • vulture4

    Like DOE and DOD, NASA is going to have to make some tough choices. There’s only so much funding. Given the other launch systems available, it isn’t clear that SLS provides any significant benefit for science, and it severely constrains funds for many years.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Grunsfeld said
    “We are only as strong as our whole, and if we pit community against community, everybody loses,”

    amightywind wrote @ January 12th, 2012 at 5:05 pm
    “Oh come on! We need a full throated defense of astrophysics projects in the face of the unconscionably wasteful ISS. The ISS grabs $3 billion a year and astrophysics goes begging.”

    I don’t think you understand the subtext here. Grunsfeld isn’t talking about astrophysics versus human space flight. He’s talking about astrophysics versus planetary science and heliophysics. Those are the accounts that are getting raided specifically to save JWST. That being the case, there is very real danger of those communities getting pitted against astrophysics. To some extent, this has already been happening. JWST is not a priority to most planetary scientists, yet their budget is being used to prop up JWST.

    The “whole” here is NASA science.

    In using these words to the astronomical community, Grunsfeld is implicitly begging them not to make any assumptions that pirating money from other communities is the way things should be.

  • Aberwys

    So, I want to know if JWST’s cash will come from the planetary science budget. Does anyone know.

  • guest

    amightywind wrote I’m not thrilled with Grunsfeld or Gerstenmaier.

    Grunsfeld’s a nice guy; has never done real world science, and as an astronaut his main job was to keep his mouth shut and his nose clean; that and ride on rockets we no longer have. He was never a politician which is the other job the AA needs to do.. Gerstenmaier is really not much different-nice guy, kept his nose clean, but doesn’t say or do much; it was easy when Shuttles were flying; he just had to not have an accident. Now we need real leadership-we’ve needed real leadership the last few years. If he has it in him, we’ve not seen it. He’s mainly been promoting his friends and co-workers from his early days which explains why a lot of the management is so poor and inexperienced.

  • Jeff Foust

    So, I want to know if JWST’s cash will come from the planetary science budget.

    NASA officials have previously indicated that the additional money needed for JWST would come 50-50 from the Cross Agency Support account and the non-Earth sciences divisions of the Science Mission Directorate (that is, astrophysics, heliophysics, and planetary science). NASA has not disclosed exactly how those funding reductions will be distributed among the various programs, and probably will not before the release of the FY13 budget proposal next month.

  • Doug Lassiter

    JWST got $156M more than originally budgeted to cover its overruns. Half of it comes from SMD. That’s $78M from SMD. But SMD as a whole got $74M more than budgeted. According to the Joint Explanatory Supplement for NASA on the Conference bill, Planetary got $40M less, Astrophysics (not including JWST) got $10M less, Helio got what was budgeted, and Earth Science got $32M less. So you can make your own guesses about which division actually paid for the JWST overrun. Bottom line is that except for Heliophysics, other science disciplines didn’t get what they asked for by a significant amount, largely because of JWST. It would have been worse had SMD not gotten an overall budgetary increase.

  • Robert G. Oler

    guest wrote @ January 12th, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    amightywind wrote I’m not thrilled with Grunsfeld or Gerstenmaier.

    Grunsfeld’s a nice guy; has never done real world science, and as an astronaut his main job was to keep his mouth shut and his nose clean; that and ride on rockets we no longer have. He was never a politician which is the other job the AA needs to do.. Gerstenmaier is really not much different-nice guy, kept his nose clean, but doesn’t say or do much; it was easy when Shuttles were flying; he just had to not have an accident. Now we need real leadership-we’ve needed real leadership the last few years. If he has it in him, we’ve not seen it. He’s mainly been promoting his friends and co-workers from his early days which explains why a lot of the management is so poor and inexperienced.>>

    and why failure is now not only an option but inevitable. Nice comments be sure and not let them catch you ….RGO

  • amightywind

    Grunsfeld is implicitly begging them not to make any assumptions that pirating money from other communities is the way things should be.

    Baloney. Heliophysics, magnetic field studies, etc are 3rd order, low priority investigations. The big astrophysics missions are conquering vast new scientific ground. It is a matter of priorities. Of course the other accounts should be ‘rebalanced’.

  • NASA Fan

    The challenge for both Hertz and Grunsfeld is keeping non JWST astrophysicists from using their lobbying path to earmark monies their way over the next decade; hence the plea for ‘can’t we all get along’ here.

    If they are successful in that maneuver, they need to then keep these same astrophysicists happy and occupied without any monies, as JWST has – not withstanding Helio – sucked the life out of the other SMD divisions.

    So, yes, Dr. Grunsfeld says he’s slightly crazy for taking the job, he’s not kidding.

    Look for SMD small science/technology on ISS via the AO Missions of Opportunity route: a path that supports ISS w/o expending monies SMD doesn’t have. Dr. Weiler used this fig leaf to placate his superiors, but look for Grunsfeld to actually selection something.

    SLS isn’t going to happen, and the small science community that may have been served by it knows this. Look for paper studies and nothing more.

  • E.P. Grondine

    As far as science “clients” go, there were NO NEO ASTRONOMERS OR NEO SESSIONS at the AAS meeting.

    Once again, there’s no mention by anyone here of the George Brown Jr. amendment, just the competition among existing base of science clients for resources.

    Its up to Lu, Schweikert, Jones, Yeomans et al to give Grunsfeld the elevator briefing.

  • vulture4

    The original Station discussions as far back as the 70′s anticipated much greater investment in ISS-mounted and ISS-serviced co-orbiting-satellite-mounted instruments for observation. The small multispectral camera and the AMS at least represent a small step in that direction.

  • Doug Lassiter

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ January 13th, 2012 at 11:04 am
    “As far as science “clients” go, there were NO NEO ASTRONOMERS OR NEO SESSIONS at the AAS meeting.”

    You’ve got it wrong. Planetary astronomers usually don’t come to the American Astronomical Society meetings. That’s mostly for astrophysics people, for whom the Brown amendment is irrelevant. Planetary astronomers have their own Division of Planetary Science of the AAS meeting, wherein you’ll find lots of NEO people. Next annual one will be October in Reno, where they can gamble away on NEO impact odds, I guess, but more likely their budget fate. Lots of NEO papers at the last one, and will be at the upcoming LPSC meeting.

    Oops, you went to the wrong meeting?

  • NASA Fan

    The fact that NEO folks have their own convention, separate from the denizens of astrophysics, suggests there already has always existed a lack of unity among astronomers; a unity Grunsfeld will have to deal with pleas to the contrary notwithstanding.

    If NASA really wants unity inside SMD, they wouldn’t have separate lines in the budget for the various SMD science divisions. Separating out the science in this way creates naturally an us vs. them mentality Grunsfeld abhors and fears a budgets shrink.

    Survival always trumps unity.

  • Doug Lassiter

    NASA Fan wrote @ January 13th, 2012 at 9:07 pm
    “The fact that NEO folks have their own convention, separate from the denizens of astrophysics, suggests there already has always existed a lack of unity among astronomers; a unity Grunsfeld will have to deal with pleas to the contrary notwithstanding. ”

    No, that’s just silly. Astronomy is a large enterprise, and it makes sense to have different subdisciplines meet separately. It is hardly alone in doing that. There just isn’t a lot of value to be gained by people studying NEOs to be rubbing shoulders with people studying the early universe (Though, interestingly, there are one or two people who work hard at both!) That kind of “unity” just doesn’t pay off scientifically. The “unity” that counts is that of science.

    No, NEO folks don’t “have their own convention”. They attend meetings of planetary (as in, solar system) astronomers. Because, hey, NEOs are in our solar system. Gasp!

    The purpose of SMD management divisions is simply because scientifically, there are divisions. The hardware used by astrophysicists is vastly different than that used by planetary astronomers, heliophysicists, or Earth scientists. Sorry, but we’re not going to have a Mars rover with an astronomical telescope mounted on it, peering through the Martian atmosphere, or a solar probe gazing back down at the Earth measuring the area of ice packs.

    These scientists are all the community of SMD, and that’s how the “us-vs-them” mentality is suppressed. Again, there is no scientific value of different science disciplines going around holding hands, but these different disciplines do coordinate their congressional advocacy very closely in the interest of science as a whole.

    Astrophysicists are by no means saying “Yeah, let’s take gobs of money from Planetary to keep JWST going!” The NEVER say that. Unfortunately, NASA management has to make hard decisions, and that’s where the piracy occurs. It is a shame that astrophysicists seem to want to deny that the piracy is happening. They NEVER say “our science is better than yours”. But unfortunately that’s the result.

    The kind of unity that Grunsfeld should reach for is the long departed sense of unity between the human space flight and science communities. Grunsfeld can speak both languages, and he could be a facile diplomat, should he decide to do so.

  • Vladislaw

    who ever proposed JWST at less than a billion then have the chains moved every year, had to know from the start how disingenous those figures were, They also must have known how the game is played and as the budget gets blown some other science is going to be getting screwed.

    So there has to be people with the mentality that “this science is more important than that science”. Or these things would not happen, people would not take those risks unless they are convienced their science is more important and the risk/reward ratio is worth it.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi DL, all –

    You ever seen a separate line item in the NASA budget for the NEO search?
    One where NASA admits to the general public how little they really care about their safetry and well being? I used to spend several days each year trying to find NASA’s NEO detection budget in the anual budget.

    I suppose this is a case of separate and unequal. When it comes to the budget, astrophysicists get served in the dinning room, NEO astronomers at the kitchen door; astrophysicists get to use the bathrooms, while NEO astronomers get to use the john out back.

    As far as representation within SMD, you can get the job providing you don’t ask for anything, but just say “Yes, Mastuh”.

    As far as using risk/reward for determining prioirties, NASA funds anyone who will try to minimize the risk based on theoretical models. Anyone working with real data is SOL.

    Ground based telescopes can’t do this job alone, and its well past the time for NASA’s management to step up to the plate on this.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ January 14th, 2012 at 10:40 am

    They also must have known how the game is played and as the budget gets blown some other science is going to be getting screwed.

    This is why I was ambivalent about JWST getting cancelled – if people think that their program won’t die, they won’t try as hard to keep it within budget and schedule.

    The risk & reward system needs to be changed so that budget inflation is not routinely accepted. For any size budget. JWST at $500M sounded like a bargain compared to what we spent overall on Hubble, and maybe that was part of the initial acceptance when the budget started growing.

    But if anything, that should have been a big sign that the program was getting out of control. After it grew to $2B, that should have prompted a complete review of the program, with one possible outcome being cancellation.

  • Doug Lassiter

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ January 14th, 2012 at 11:46 am
    “You ever seen a separate line item in the NASA budget for the NEO search?
    One where NASA admits to the general public how little they really care about their safetry and well being? I used to spend several days each year trying to find NASA’s NEO detection budget in the anual budget.”

    Took me about twenty seconds to find it in the FY12 budget for SMD.

    The NASA NEOO program is described in several paragraphs, but the lines you might be interested in are …

    “The NEOO project detects and tracks at least 90 percent of the near Earth objects (NEOs)– asteroids, and comets that come within 1.3 astronomical units of the Sun. It’s long term goal is to find those of at least 140 meters in size that have any potential to collide with Earth and do significant damage to the planet.”

    For FY12 NEOO is budgeted at $20.4M/yr, and the budget runouts appear to be nominally inflated. It’s evidently proposed as a level-of-effort program. See budget page PS-12.

    But you’re right, there are no words about how little NASA cares about the safety and well being of the public. Just dollars budgeted for how much they do care. Seems like they’re not only are stepping up to the plate, but they’re making line drives.

    Should they be spending more than that? Maybe. Suggestions about specifically where NEOO funding needs to be increased would be more constructive than speculations about where their scientists should be able to go to relieve themselves. But I suppose if you can’t find the whole budget number, you’re going to have a hard time finding the budget breakdown. Have you asked?

  • hb

    “who ever proposed JWST at less than a billion then have the chains moved every year, had to know from the start how disingenous those figures were.”

    The people at STScI and GSFC proposed JWST as a public works project to keep jobs in Mikulski’s district. They knew the original budget was a lie because it was the most important characteristic of their strategy to get the mission approved.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi DL, –

    You’re welcome.

    That’s $20,000,000 out of $18,000,000,000 or so.
    Care to compare that $20M with the JWST overruns?

    When I started off my repotage, there was no one at NASA responsible.
    It took “Dark Angel Falling”,”Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” to get that in place.

    Then an office was set up, with a budge of ca. $4 million per year.
    There things sat and sat.

    Finally the George Brown Jr amendment was passed by both Houses on a bi-partisan basis in 2005. Griffin then blew them off in 2006.

    The warning times are still not aderquate, as the threat goes clean down to dead conet fragments of 30 meters diameter (= 5 kiloton air blast), and the infra-red spae based telescope is still not budgeted by SMD.
    About 1.75 Kilometers of 73P has gone missing, but will be in Earth’s vicinity in 2022.

    NF, you’ve got it right. I expect Grunsfeld to show up later this year ar the AAS, and at the ACM annual.

    Though I’ve had a stroke; still I try to do what I can, such as irritate the hell out of manned space fantasists of different stripes.

    You want to talk about the interdisciplinary aspects of impact studies? Right now I’m off mammoth hunting.

    Universities in Texas appear to be equal to those in Arizona for Earth impact studies. I don’t care where they get done, as long as they are done.

  • Doug Lassiter

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ January 15th, 2012 at 1:52 pm
    “That’s $20,000,000 out of $18,000,000,000 or so. Care to compare that $20M with the JWST overruns?”

    It’s also $20M out of a federal budget of $3.7T, which sounds a lot worse. If you’re just going to pull numbers out of a hat, I can do it too.

    In fact, the last NASA authorization bill refers to NEO detection, and says

    (a) POLICY REAFFIRMATION.—Congress reaffirms the policy set forth in section 102(g) of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (42 U.S.C. 2451(g)) relating to surveying near-Earth asteroids and comets.
    (b) IMPLEMENTATION.—The Director of the OSTP shall implement, before September 30, 2012, a policy for notifying Federal agencies and relevant emergency response institutions of an impending near-Earth object threat if near-term public safety is at risk, and assign a Federal agency or agencies to be responsible for protecting the United States and working with the international community on such threats.

    So $20M/yr is for NASA to do what Congress actually asked them to do. In fact, what this $20M/yr does is pretty much what the George Brown Amendment would have had NASA do. The Brown amendment would have had NASA characterize and track objects larger than 100m, while the present work does it for objects larger than 140m. BTW, Griffin didn’t “blow it off” the amendment. The amendment made it to committee, but was never passed by Congress. That’s simply false that it was passed by both houses of Congress, though the rather limited sponsorship was indeed bipartisan (two Democrats and one Republican).

    But the bottom line is that NASA can’t be expected to serve needs that Congress doesn’t tell them they should be serving. NASA just does what Congress pays them to do, and that $18B that NASA gets from Congress most certainly isn’t for NEO detection. You need to beat on Congress, not NASA.

    To put this in context with the topic at hand, this national defense task seems hardly appropriate to NASA, though Congress gave it to NASA. That being the case, it seems hardly appropriate to SMD, except that SMD has the technical abilities to do it that other directorates don’t. I don’t think Grunsfeld will lose a lot of sleep over it.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi DL –

    That does sound a lot worse.

    But then, it’s sounded that way for a long time.

    You need to read 102(g).

    Remember that dead comet fragments are dangerous down to 30 meters diameter, and iron asteroids down to about the same size – city killers, but not state killers. You have to go to 60 meters diameter for those.

    So pick a state, any state; the problem is, in the end you don’t get a choice which state.

    Right now, if the weather cooperates, and a whole lot of other things go just right, we can get about 3 days warning of a Tunguska class (60 M) impactor, maybe.

    Its good to see that NASA wil have to arrange for FEMA, DOE, and DoD coordinaton by September. I am sure that Lu, Jones, Shweikert, et al. have thought this through. I expect Grunsfeld to study up on the problem as well, and be ready to execute those instructions by August.

    About next month should be a good time to find the 1.75 kilometers missing out of 73P. I expect Hubble time to be made available, and for that task to be given the highest observing time priority, barring unusual evens.

    SMD has capabilities to handle this hazard that DoD does not, and I don’t want to see DoD distracted from its primary mission – national defense. Pleases stop trying to wiggle NASA out of their responsibility. Read 102(g).

    This being MLK’s birthday, I have dream as well: NASA finally steps up to the plate, and I can lay this burden down.

  • stargazer

    guest wrote: “Grunsfeld’s a nice guy; has never done real world science”.

    Don’t think I agree with that – he was on the research staff at Caltech before joining the astronaut corps, and that’s not exactly an easy gig to come by. Furthermore, I’ve worked with an astro prof (and current Macarthur genius fellow) who was a contemporary of his at Caltech, who told me that Grunsfeld had gotten a job offer for a MIT faculty spot at the same time he was offered an astronaut slot.

    I think it would be very, very hard to find anyone with a better research track record who comes anywhere close to his hands-on experience in human spaceflight *and* NASA management. And fundamentally, this is a management post, not a research faculty job, so the fact that he’s been out of active research himself for the last 20 years while serving as an astronaut is not necessarily that relevant a factor.

    The folks I know at Space Telescope all said great things about him as their deputy director – apparently he spearheaded a bunch of new initiatives, led some reorganizations, etc. Let’s hope he brings the same enthusiasm to shaking up things at SMD.

  • stargazer

    E.P.Grondine wrote: “About next month should be a good time to find the 1.75 kilometers missing out of 73P. I expect Hubble time to be made available, and for that task to be given the highest observing time priority, barring unusual evens.”

    Doesn’t sound like you know what you’re talking about, sorry. Hubble’s the wrong instrument for finding a NEO, since it has very fine angular resolution but small field of view. You need to know exactly where something is before you can point Hubble at it. For finding and tracking NEOs, you’ll want something with a very wide field of view, like LINEAR or Pan-Starrs.

    Besides which: if you want Hubble time next month, you need to have applied about a year ago during the Cycle 19 call for proposals. And if your observations had been approved in that, you’d know that Hubble scheduling doesn’t have any notion of “highest observing time priority”. All approved observations will be executed sooner or later if at all technically possible, with the exact details of what gets scheduled first depending primarily on available observing windows and efficiency considerations rather than any ranked priority lists. Ground based telescopes often use ranked lists, since they need to have some way to determine what gets the best weather, but there’s no such concern for Hubble.

  • Doug Lassiter

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ January 16th, 2012 at 3:23 am
    “You need to read 102(g).”

    I have. But I’ll make it easy for you.

    102(g) The Congress declares that the general welfare and security of the United States require that the unique competence of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration be directed to detecting, tracking, cataloguing, and characterizing near-Earth asteroids and comets in order to provide warning and mitigation of the potential hazard of such near-Earth objects to the Earth.

    Now, that’s exactly what NEOO is doing. That’s also what LSST will be doing, when NSF builds it, which it will.That’s why we’re spending $20M/yr on NEOO. Because that’s what Congress wants to spend on doing this task. Now, Congress bases strategy on statistics, and they know full well that they can pick a state, any state (how about New Jersey!), and the 60m rock that hits the Earth (which it hasn’t done in a hundred years) almost certainly won’t hit that state. Beyond what NEOO is doing, the “potential hazard” that 102(g) refers to is very, very small.

    Re your dream that NASA finally steps up to a particular plate, go talk to Congress. NASA isn’t going to pull $100M out of some other project and plunk it in NEO detection without Congressional direction. If they did, there would be smoke coming out of Capitol Hill.

    I think Grunsfeld won’t give NEO detection and mitigation a second thought unless Congress, via Bolden, tells him to. He will probably be thinking some about which NEO we should put a footprint on, but unlikely which one will might its footprint on us.

    Also, 102(g) has it right. While NASA has unique competence in detecting, tracking, cataloguing, and characterizing NEOs, I’d sure not want to entrust it to mitigate one, especially if time were short. There are other agencies that are far more capable of doing that. So when NEOO finds a rock headed our way, who are we going to ask to mitigate it? Have we made the investment to make sure they have the capability to do that?

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi DL –

    Ed Weiler was a great one for spending other agencies money.

    You haven’t been following the recent “discussions” about the allocations of Pan Starrs observing time.

    Regardless of Pan Starrs and LSSAT, SMD needs to budget in the space based infra red telescope

    “NASA isn’t going to pull $100M out of some other project and plunk it in NEO detection without Congressional direction. If they did, there would be smoke coming out of Capitol Hill.”

    “NASA and GrunsfI think Grunsfeld won’t give NEO detection and mitigation a second thought unless Congress, via Bolden, tells him to.”.

    Grunfeld and Bolden already have Congressional direction in regards to this. NASA management has not listened to its engineers at Langley.

    Better smoke coming out of Capitol Hill than smoke coming off of Capitol Hill.

    As far as “mitigation” (interception) goes, there’s a lot you don’t know and don’t need to know, aside from the fact that NASA has deep space navigation technologies that no one else has. As far as short term rapid response mechanisms, Grunsfeld has 7 months to get them put into place.

    BTW, your recent impact history is off, as are your impact frequency estimates.

    and PS – thanks for making this so easy for me, as I don’t type all that well now, and this is difficult for me. Could you just tell us all where the missing parts of 73P are?

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi stargazer –

    Yes, Hubble has a narrow field of view. That’s why we’ll need all of its obserrving time to find the other parts of 73P. After that’s done, then Cycle 19 will kick in.

    As far as Cycle 19 goes right now, its irrelevant paper generated by astophycists.

    NEO astonomers will not be riding in the bakc of the bus anymore.
    Get used to it.

  • Doug Lassiter

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ January 16th, 2012 at 6:59 pm
    “Regardless of Pan Starrs and LSSAT, SMD needs to budget in the space based infra red telescope”

    It’s called LSST. Certainly a space based IR telescope, ideally inside the orbit of the Earth, would be the optimal detection strategy.

    “Grunfeld and Bolden already have Congressional direction in regards to this. NASA management has not listened to its engineers at Langley.”

    Please quote that direction you’re referring to, as in federal statute. I gave you all the “direction” they were given. NASA management doesn’t need to listen to it’s engineers at LaRC, nor do they have to listen to you. They need to listed to Congress and OSTP (or else they get fired). Spend some time in DC and you’ll see how it works. I think we can both agree that better detection is in the interest of humanity, but Congress and the Administration evidently don’t yet see the need. They pay the bills.

    “NEO astonomers will not be riding in the bakc of the bus anymore.
    Get used to it.”

    Heh. The President has given NEO astronomers a remarkable opportunity, with some sort of a pledge to actually send humans to one. But you know, when that expedition occurs (assuming it actually does occur), you can bet that science will be riding in the back of the bus. Get used to it. That’s the paradigm that Mike Griffin imposed on human space flight for the agency, and it has never really changed. But at least the back of the bus gets there!

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi DL -

    “102(g) The Congress declares that the general welfare and security of the United States require that the unique competence of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration be directed to detecting, tracking, cataloguing, and characterizing near-Earth asteroids and comets in order to provide warning and mitigation of the potential hazard of such near-Earth objects to the Earth”

    DL – “NASA management doesn’t need to listen to it’s engineers at LaRC, nor do they have to listen to you. They need to listen to Congress and OSTP (or else they get fired).”

    DL – “Certainly a space based IR telescope, ideally inside the orbit of the Earth, would be the optimal detection strategy.”

    Actually, Langley’s CAPS is the optimal detection system. But JPL’s IR scope is a very necessary stop gap addition as well. Its up to Bolden and Grunsfeld to budget it, and have it operational by 2021 at the latest.

    In regards to detection, 2 telescopes, both located in Hawaii, can’t provide adequate ground based coverage, no matter how powerful.

    “Spend some time in DC and you’ll see how it works.”

    hoo boy. I don’t what more you want – it looks to me like there already is an act of Congress. Its language is pretty plain, although it appears that some people have severe problems with either reading or understanding English.

    I’ve had a stroke; and now you want me to see that the Executive Branch caries out an act of Congress?

  • Doug Lassiter

    Sorry, but what 102(g) mandates is exactly what NASA is doing. The language is plain. They are “detecting, tracking, cataloguing, and characterizing near-Earth asteroids and comets in order to provide warning and mitigation of the potential hazard”. Congress doesn’t say what constitutes a “potential hazard”. In fact, the widespread global nuclear arsenals offers a potential hazard that is far larger than the asteroid that NASA can’t detect, and it’s much more likely that the former presents more of a hazard than the latter.

    Also, Congress is mandating that the efforts of NASA “be directed to” these pursuits, and not necessarily accomplishing them. Yep, it’s about reading and understanding English.

    You can bring it to court, but I don’t think you’d win. NASA is compliant. Now if 102(g) has specified that a NEO that could take out Roharbacher’s house should be detected and mitigated, that would be another thing.

    It is interesting that Congress is concerned about hazards “to the Earth” rather than hazards to the nation. I’m not sure if the American taxpayer is particularly interested in protecting China or Iran from asteroid impacts. That’s foreign aid, no?

    I’ll admit that NASA isn’t doing all that Congress might ask it to do, but Congress seems pretty happy with what they’re paying it to do. The Executive Branch can’t “carry out” something that Congress doesn’t want to pay for. It’s that simple. Bolden and Grunsfeld aren’t going to “budget” anything that Congress hasn’t said they would shell out money for. What, Grunsfeld is going to sell apples on the street to fund it? No, those apples are for JWST.

    The point is not that more sensitive detection can’t be considered a good idea, but that those who pay for it don’t consider it to have more value than $20M/yr. Now, Congress is free to take that NEOO budget proposal number and bump up the appropriation for it, or just do an unfunded earmark to increase it. But they haven’t.

  • E.P. Grondine

    “Also, Congress is mandating that the efforts of NASA “be directed to” these pursuits, and not necessarily accomplishing them. Yep, it’s about reading and understanding English.”

    Denial is not just a river in Egypt, either.

    “Congress doesn’t say what constitutes a “potential hazard”.”

    Do you think that getting that defined explicitly as 30 meter diameter objects would help, or would even more definitions that would have to be added so that NASA could not avoid responsibility, which is the intent.

    Perhaps this years additional instructions have helped to clarify NASA’s responsibilities. If NASA needs more money to carry out these instructions, the Congress has asked NASA to tell them.

    “It is interesting that Congress is concerned about hazards “to the Earth” rather than hazards to the nation. I’m not sure if the American taxpayer is particularly interested in protecting China or Iran from asteroid impacts. That’s foreign aid, no?”

    While as Fukushima shows, having another country, region, or city blown off the face of the Earth is not in the US’s own interest, I definitely agree wih you that the US should not pick up the entire cost.

    While Canada is paying an admirable share, clearly the members of other nation’s legislatures still remain to be educated about this hazard, legislation willo have to be enacted, and then executed.

    “I’ll admit that NASA isn’t doing all that Congress might ask it to do, but Congress seems pretty happy with what they’re paying it to do.”

    NASA’s PAO is staffed by the best around. Most people know about one keyhole for Apophis in 2029, but they don’t know about the other 2029 keyholes.

    I expect that whoever represents the coastal regions, on either side of the aisle, will take a special interestr in legislation, as their constituents’ mpact risk is higher.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi DL –

    I’ve had a stroke and even have trouble typing,
    Your suggestion about working the Executive, seems our of reach, as I am In Illinois now, as I have been since 2004..
    You got any other ideas?

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>