[FPSPACE] Weinberg in New York Review
nww62 at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Apr 14 14:02:41 EDT 2004
Seeing the mention of The current New York Review with Tim Ferris's article spurred me to mention the last issue, with a strongly-worded attack on the Bush space policy by Nobelist Steven Weinberg.
Full article is at:
A couple of extracts may give the flavour:
"Of the other half of the Columbia's experiments, a large fraction dealt with the growth of crystals and the flow of fluids in nearly zero gravity, old standbys of NASA that have neither illuminated any fundamental issues of science nor led to any practical applications. It is always dangerous for a scientist in one field to try to judge the value of work done by specialists in other fields, but I think I would have heard about it if anything really exciting was coming out of any of these experiments, and I haven't. Much of the "scientific" program assigned to astronauts on the space shuttle and the space station has the flavor of projects done for a high school science talent contest. Some of the work looks interesting, but it is hard to see why it has to be done by people. For instance, there was just one experiment on Columbia devoted to astronomy, a useful measurement of variations in the energy being emitted from the sun. The principal investigator tells me that the only
intervention of the astronauts consisted of turning the apparatus on and then turning it off. "
"In the foregoing, I have taken the President's space initiative seriously. That may be a mistake. Before the "New Vision" was announced, the administration was faced with the risk of political damage from a possible new fatal shuttle accident like the Columbia disaster less than a year earlier. That problem could be eased by canceling all shuttle flights before the 2004 presidential election, and allowing only enough flights after that to keep building the space station. The space station posed another problem: no one was excited any more by what had become the Great Orbital Turkey. While commitments to domestic contractors and international partners protected it from being immediately scrapped, its runaway costs needed to be cut. But just cutting back on the shuttle and the space station would be too negative, not at all in keeping with what might be expected from a President of Vision. So, back to the moon, and on to Mars! Most of the huge bills for these manned missions would
come due after the President leaves office in 2005 or 2009, and the extra costs before then could be covered in part by cutting other things that no one in the White House is interested in anyway, like research on black holes and cosmology. After the end of the President's time in office, who cares? If future presidents are not willing to fund this initiative then it is they who will have to bear the stigma of limited vision. So, looking on the bright side, instead of spending nearly a trillion dollars on manned missions to the moon and Mars we may wind up spending only a fraction of that on nothing at all."
Yahoo! Messenger - Communicate instantly..."Ping" your friends today! Download Messenger Now
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the FPSPACE