Congressional leaders ask NASA to guarantee scientific openness |

Congressional leaders ask NASA to guarantee scientific openness

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Congressional leaders asked NASA Thursday to guarantee scientific openness at the agency following accusations that a public affairs officer changed or filtered information on global warming and the Big Bang.Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, chairman of the House Science Committee, said that while space administrator Michael Griffin has responded admirably to the allegations, “NASA still has a lot of work to do to ensure openness.””We need free and open inquiry, an agency that recognizes that the greatest exploration takes place inside the human mind,” Boehlert, R-N.Y., said during a hearing in Washington on NASA’s $16.8 billion budget request.NASA public affairs officer George Deutsch, a political appointee, resigned last week after he was accused of trying to limit reporters’ access to a noted NASA climate scientist and insisting that a Web designer insert the word “theory” with any mention of the Big Bang. Deutsch has denied censoring scientists or inserting religion into NASA literature.Griffin didn’t directly address the concerns about scientific openness during his committee testimony, instead defending his agency’s budget request against criticism that it shortchanges science and aeronautics research in favor of finishing construction of the international space station and developing missions to the moon and eventually Mars.”This budget is bad for space science, worse for Earth science, perhaps worse still for aeronautics,” Boehlert said. “It basically cuts or de-emphasizes every forward-looking, truly futuristic program of the agency to fund … what we are already doing or have done before.”Griffin responded that the human spaceflight programs takes priority because of the perils of having a wide gap between when the space shuttles are retired in 2010 and when the next-generation vehicles are expected to be ready, no later than 2014.He cautioned that other nations could take the lead in manned space exploration and NASA could lose a skilled work force if the gap lasts long. The United States also must fulfill its obligations to build the space station, he added.”The U.S. risks both a real and perceived loss of leadership on the world stage if we are unable to launch our own astronauts into space for an extended period of time when other nations possess their own capabilities to do so,” Griffin said.Earlier this month, Griffin sent an e-mail to the agency’s workers that stressed, “It is not the job of public affairs officers to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA’s technical staff.”At Thursday’s hearing, Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., said he feared that federal scientific censorship extended beyond NASA and “permeates this entire administration.”Vail, Colorado

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