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Shuttle Squeezes Science in Space Program

Courtesy of NASA When the space shuttle Columbia erupted into flames on re-entry, killing its crew of seven astronauts, criticism of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration grew to a fever pitch. Attackers came from all sides. Government experts wanted to know where the money was going, and science policy gurus questioned whether NASA could not better use its $15 billion (US) yearly allotment. The outcome of this debate and resultant soul-searching is especially relevant to the smal

Sam Jaffe
Courtesy of NASA

When the space shuttle Columbia erupted into flames on re-entry, killing its crew of seven astronauts, criticism of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration grew to a fever pitch. Attackers came from all sides. Government experts wanted to know where the money was going, and science policy gurus questioned whether NASA could not better use its $15 billion (US) yearly allotment.

The outcome of this debate and resultant soul-searching is especially relevant to the small but growing community of space scientists, those who depend on NASA for most of their funding and for access to space. In fiscal year 2002, NASA spent more than $380 million on basic research, some $150 million of it on the life sciences. To thousands of NASA grantees, talk about the future of the space program is not just about cocktail party banter; it's about salaries and careers. But agency critics warn...

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