Space agency chief answers his critics.
NASA head Mike Griffin was blunter than usual last week, as he defended his scaling back of the agency's science programme. Space scientists have responded angrily to the cutbacks (see Nature 439, 768–769; 200610.1038/439768a), but Griffin insisted to two key advisory groups — the Space Studies Board and the science subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council — that the science programme is still healthy. He made it clear, however, that the White House's plan to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars takes priority over increased science funding. And although he is willing to rethink some specifics, he reminded scientists “to be respectful of the political and budgetary constraints we face”.
Griffin's stance on...
Whether budget cuts might be reversed
We're willing to reconsider, but reconsideration should be based on community input, not the loudest voice, the longest e-mail or who can use the most capitals.
The outcry over cutting research grants
The community doesn't care if we fly missions; they want money for universities. I find that, to be honest with you, appalling.
A law requiring NASA to try to rescue the Hubble telescope — even though such a mission would take hundreds of millions of dollars from other science projects
I hope the astronomy community likes the decision they lobbied for. They better damn well like it, because they got it.
Cutbacks to life-sciences research aboard the International Space Station
What is the point of funding life-sciences research when I can't put people into space? I need the budget I have to recreate abilities that we once had to fly [beyond Earth orbit], that we don't have any more. It's a sequencing problem.
Deep cuts to NASA astrobiology
I did think astrobiology was less important than traditional space science. It had less intrinsic subject matter to it, and was less advanced. If the community rises up and says it should be funded, we'll rethink it.
Opportunities for science on the Moon
I have to draw the line when people say “I'm not interested in the Moon. I would rather put the money into studying the physics of the tropopause.”
OK, great. Glad you have an opinion; everybody gets one. But the people who run the country have decided that we are in fact going to the Moon. It's a question of what scientists would like to do with that.
The importance of finishing the International Space Station
As administrator, I inherit a situation not of my liking. But other nations have spent a very significant part of their own discretionary space funding supporting our agenda. They built their hardware, and they want to see it flown. I want us to honour this commitment.
About this article
Poiesis & Praxis (2006)