Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Future of NASA

We physicists are a pretty inclusive bunch. We love to point out that a physics training makes one ideal for many other careers in which one can make a real contribution to society, and we love to claim people who've demonstrated this successfully as our own. We do this partly because its actually true, partly because we want more physics majors, and partly because we think a scientifically literate society will benefit everyone. To give just one example, physicists will often point out that Congressman Rush Holt (D - NJ) is a physicist. His economic development plan for central New Jersey is even called Einstein's Alley. (The other physicist-Congressman is Vern Ehlers (R - MI)). Sometimes, however, it's best for us to hold off until we see how things work out.

This from the always-insightful Bob Park's What's New column
Described in media stories as a Johns Hopkins physicist, Michael D. Griffin is at the Applied Physics Lab, a government contract lab far from the campus, and although he has a B.A. in physics, his Ph.D. is in Aerospace Engineering from the Univ. of Maryland. During the Reagan years he was Deputy for Technology of SDI (Star Wars), which managed to squander $30B on mythical weapons. Eighteen months ago, Griffin testified before the House Science Committee on "The Future of Human Space Flight". ...
NASA has the experience and potential to do wonderful things for science; given the right direction and a leader who can make it happen. In my opinion one component needs to be a commitment to robotic missions for scientific exploration, which have been a remarkable success so far, and lack the cost, danger and technological constraints of manned missions. The second requirement is a drive to investigate the universe with great observatories, with new probes of inflation, of black holes and of the nature of the dark energy, and to have the vision to go further. Like many other physicists, I'll be watching carefully, with fingers crossed.
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