WASHINGTON, May 2 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Astronomical Society
released a statement today (included in whole below and available at the AAS
website (http://www.aas.org/governance/council/resolutions.html) decrying the
recently announced cuts to NASA astrophysics funding.
AAS President Robert Kirshner said, "NASA is having a tough time paying
for its superb science program. This year's choice to omit support of
individual astronomers is very painful for astronomers and could lead to
serious damage in the long run. We have to work with NASA to make sure that
the president's exploration vision is firmly linked to a broad view of the
science NASA does so well."
David Black, chair of the AAS Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy
"The budget pressures that NASA and its Science Mission Directorate face
are significant. Much of the problem is due to a substantial increase in
Congressional earmarks, so the need for action by NASA is clear. The problem
with the steps that have been taken by NASA are twofold. First, the Research
and Analysis programs that have been hit with cuts are the seed stock of the
nation's future talent, and reducing them at a time when there is a new
Administrator charged with implementing the President's call for expanded
exploration, is hard to rationalize. Second, there is concern that we may be
seeing a dangerous precedent for future tight budget years. Continued
reductions like these could put our nation's stature as a leader in space, and
the benefits that flow from that leadership, at risk."
The American Astronomical Society is the primary professional organization
for astronomers and astrophysicists in the United States with more than 6,000
current members. In addition, the Society publishes the major research
journals in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics and holds biannual
meetings to highlight research performed by astronomers worldwide. The AAS
works actively to further astronomy and astrophysics research in the United
States and internationally. The Society web page is http://www.aas.org.
AAS STATEMENT ON RECENT NASA SCIENCE MISSION DIRECTORATE BUDGET ACTIONS
NASA's science programs have provided -- and continue to provide -- the
Nation with a strong return on its investment in space exploration. Essential
elements of this return are NASA's data analysis programs associated with
specific missions and its research and analysis (R&A) programs that fund more
general research that guides and informs future space missions. These R&A
programs are critical for training the next generation of scientists and
assuring the nation of continued leadership in space exploration.
NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) budget for FY 2005 has come under
intense pressure with required reductions of several hundred million dollars
arising from costs of returning the shuttle fleet to flight, unplanned
expenses associated with the Hubble Space Telescope, and a record level of
unfunded congressional earmarks. As a result, NASA has announced a series of
terminations of new mission opportunities, as well as cutbacks in key R&A
programs for the coming year.
Reductions in R&A programs have a disproportionate long-term impact for
the small amount of money saved. These reductions compromise a major vehicle
for recruiting and developing younger researchers, and therefore, the cuts
correspond to the loss of scientists and the capabilities they bring to our
national space efforts. The President is calling for expanded exploration.
Cutting R&A programs and thereby reducing our capacity to explore cannot
Budget actions taken at this time can set dangerous precedents for
upcoming years, as prospects for NASA's future budget appear no better than
for FY2005. To ensure that long-term priorities are preserved and that
science return is maximized in a reduced funding environment, NASA should
involve members of the science community in a current assessment of missions
before finalizing decisions on possible mission terminations. What is at stake
is American pre-eminence in space science and the scientific, educational and
economic benefits that flow from that enterprise.
SOURCE American Astronomical Society