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Shepherd in WAPO

Monday, May 4, 2015 - 9:59am

Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and Geography J. Marshall Shepherd addressed the debate (and political gamesmanship) surrounding cuts to NASA's earth science budget in the Washington Post last week:

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, one of the few people that has actually seen our home planet from the vantage point of space, issued a statement noting that proposed cuts, “gut our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate, and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events…” This statement is measured and appropriate, but I am writing to amplify this statement.

Cuts in the $300-500 million dollar range as proposed literally take NASA’s earth science program from the “enhanced” smart phone era back to the first-generation “flip” phones or maybe the rotary phone. It also fundamentally challenges the Congressional mandate of the 1958 Space Act creating NASA. I find the following parts of the Act compelling:

“The aeronautical and space activities of the United States shall be conducted so as to contribute materially to one or more of the following objectives:

The expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphereand space … The establishment of long-range studies of the potential benefits to be gained from, the opportunities for, and the problems involved in the utilization of aeronautical and space activities for peaceful and scientific purposes… .The preservation of the role of the United States as a leader in aeronautical and space science and technology and in the application thereof to the conduct of peaceful activities within and outside the atmosphere… The making available to agencies directly concerned with national defenses of discoveriesthat have military value or significance, and the furnishing by such agencies, to the civilian agency established to direct and control nonmilitary aeronautical and space activities, of information as to discoveries which have value or significance to that agency…”

Well done, sir. Read the whole thing. Our thanks to all engaged scholars who are willing to speak up and out on pressing issues that effect the future of society.

Image: NASA visualization of Super storm Sandy

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