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The NASA Fiasco?Both Points of View

Recently George Deutsch, a Bush appointee to NASA, was forced to resign when he tried to censor their top climatologist James Hansen, who disagrees with the official White House line that global warming is not a problem. Now you can read both sides and make up your own mind.

Andrew Gumbel writes in the Independent that Deutsch, who once worked on Bush's re-election campaign, appears to be a FEMA-like appointee, who put into public relations at NASA as a way to keep the scientists there in line on official government issues such as global warming and creationism versus evolution. He has been accused of keeping the media away from Hansen, who has called for reductions in greenhouse gases.

In a leaked email, he also told the webmaster of the NASA website space.com to use the word "theory" after the phrase "Big Bang." The Big Bang is the way scientists think the universe began. Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said the Bush administration appointee insisted on reviewing his lectures and publications in advance.

This is nothing new: in the past, pro-Bush politicians have intimidated scientists who dared to voice opinions that went against official policy.

NASA is being fairly up front about the problem. While Brian Berger writes in space.com that NASA is battling accusations that it tried to censor Hansen, the article quotes House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (who is a Republican) as saying, "NASA is clearly doing something wrong, given the sense of intimidation felt by Dr. Hansen and others who work with him. Even if this sense is a result of a misinterpretation of NASA policies?and more seems to be at play here?the problem still must be corrected."

NASA public affairs administrator Dean Acosta says, "NASA is committed to open and full communications. Our policy?is that any NASA employee speaking on the record, issuing a press release or posting information on our website, must coordinate such activities with the Office of Public Affairs?It's not saying you have to get approval, it's just saying you have to coordinate to make sure we are not [contradicting] ourselves."

NASA is clearly an organization of some of the best minds we have. Yet they rely on government funding, which has been cut recently, so they are at least somewhat beholden to the current administration, whatever it happens to be. Does this compromise their integrity as scientists? Decide for yourself: click here and here.

Art credit: gimp-savvy.com

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