It also strongly advocated what many scientists have long asked for: stable and adequate funding for university scientists and for the college and graduate students who could be the next generation of NASA employees. “NASA needs to be particularly careful to nurture and sustain research … and to recognize that frequently or abruptly changing goals and funding priorities may adversely affect the university partners on which NASA relies for many services,” the report chided. Sudden cuts in funding have stung many scientists in recent years. At Caltech, astrophysicist Fiona Harrison’s NuSTAR mission for a space telescope to detect black holes was suddenly canceled last year, two weeks before the project’s final review. “You put so much of your own resources into getting selected,” she said then. “To be canceled like this, to be honest, it’s such a risky proposition to start with, I don’t think I’ll do it again.” PASADENA – Three years ago, President Bush proposed his grand new Vision for Space Exploration, which would replace the space shuttle, complete the International Space Station and send astronauts to the moon and Mars. But it is not certain that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has the workforce to achieve this ambitious plan. In a report released last week, the National Academies’ National Research Council predicted NASA will experience a shortage of the experienced workers and leadership it needs for the job unless the space agency takes immediate action. The council’s recommendations, which NASA had solicited, included hiring and retaining younger workers, collaborating with other agencies to strengthen their workforce and providing hands-on training for NASA employees. Now, much of Harrison’s work is funded by the Department of Homeland Security, though she does have one smaller NASA-funded research endeavor underway using weather balloons. The impact of NASA’s funding cutbacks to university research have longer-term impacts as well. “I think that a lot of students are discouraged about going into astrophysics,” Harrison said. “I think that’s a big problem.” Even those not yet affected by cutbacks, said Tom Tombrello, chairman of Caltech’s physics, math and astronomy department, could feel the pinch in a few years when big, well-funded projects such as the space telescopes GALEX and Spitzer would be over. “I would worry about what will happen when \ get their degree and they wonder `How can I continue to work in this field?,”‘ Tombrello said. “As far as research in space is concerned, NASA is the only game in town.” NASA-funded university research also gives young scientists and engineers the hands-on opportunities they needed to gain expertise, the “salient requirement” for a workforce capable of carrying out the Vision for Space Exploration, according to the National Resource Council’s report. With a focus on training and recruiting new hires, the report states, NASA could build a strengthened leadership base by 2012. Harrison, with the passage of time and NASA’s appointment of a scientist as its associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, has renewed hope the agency could strengthen its relationship with university researchers. She is now considering resubmitting the proposal for the NuSTAR mission. [email protected] (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4451160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
admin January 11, 2020 0