From today’s Space Daily:
Last November, the Senior Review, an advisory committee to the NSF Division of Astronomical Sciences, recommended that Arecibo’s total funding from that division be scaled back by 25 percent over the next three years. These cuts only allow operation of the planetary radar to continue into 2008; if the NAIC cannot find outside partners to cover half of the observatory’s total operating costs by 2011, the telescope risks being shut down entirely.
Personally, this Cynic thinks that Arecibo is both an extremely valuable tool for astronomical research and a really cool backdrop for a James Bond flick (and yes, Jodie Foster certainly looked good there, too…). Frankly, $1m is not a lot of money in the vast budgets of NASA and the NSF – and Arecibo should certainly be permitted to get corporate sponsors (imagine the logos you could get on THAT dish) if such $ were available.
What did bother me in the article, though, were these two disingenuous comments:
But since the Arecibo radar system may lose all its funding from NSF as soon as next year, Cornell astronomer Joseph Burns quips, “Let’s hope that we find all the dangerous asteroids in the next few months.”
“Asteroid impacts are the only known natural disaster that can cause ecological disaster and mass extinction. They can be prevented, though, and it is simply irresponsible to neglect a unique warning and mitigation device like the Arecibo radar,” said Jean-Luc Margot, Cornell assistant professor of astronomy.
Now, as I said, I think Arecibo should get its full funding, without question. But linking the defunding of the radio telescope to the Armageddon scenario is just bogus. There is no way we could conceivably mitigate an asteroid on approach at this point, and I’m not sure exactly what a radio telescope will do to mitigate such an approach…. beam radio waves at it? (and yes, I’m aware that the scope is a receiver – I was being sarcastic).
If only they could have found a way to link Arecibo to the Global War on Terror (TM) – THEN they’d have the funding no questions asked. I mean, if you’re going to play the fear card, at least go with one that has funding attached to it. Duh.