Commentary by Mike Mackowski
Bill Nye Follow Up
I attended Bill Nye’s presentation to a full house (3000 people, mostly students) at ASU’s Gammage Auditorium on December 7. His talk hit a lot of topics, and was mostly a motivational speech to support science topics, especially space exploration and climate change research. He did promote membership in the Planetary Society, which is fine, but of course I also encourage folks to join NSS, which has an active local branch. It’s always more enjoyable to do grass-roots advocacy when you have other like-minded people around you.
Nye did not make a big deal out of his book, so the talk wasn’t what you might expect from a book tour. Nor was he trying to shame the audience into taking a more active role in promoting science, instead, he was primarily telling the story of his own personal journey in engineering and the media and science in our culture. Overall I think he did a great job of inspiring the students in the audience to keep working hard towards their goals in the sciences, and there was nothing wrong with that.
An Early Christmas Present for NASA
In the news today (Dec. 16) was word that Congress’ omnibus budget bill, which is expected to pass both houses and be signed by President Obama, has a nearly 7.5% increase in funding for NASA for FY2016 versus the prior year. Apparently this was largely the result of the October budget compromise where some of the sequestration limits were lifted which resulted in additional funding available for agencies like NASA. This enabled all their big programs to get the funds NASA requested to maintain planned programs, and sometimes more. This included SLS, Commercial Crew, and planetary exploration. In other words, everybody won. In past years, it seemed that one or more of those three pieces had to be cut to feed one of the others. This is good news all around as it will keep some programs on track (Commercial Crew) and enhance others (like adding a lander to a Europa mission).
My understanding is the main reason for this increase was that more money was available overall. I don’t know what effect, if any, lobbying or citizen advocacy had on this increase. It would be nice to think that groups like NSS or the Planetary Society could take some credit for this, but I think bigger forces were the main driver. It’s good news no matter what the reason. See this article and this article for more details.
Speaking of Like Minded People
Don’t forget that my wife (Maura) and I are hosting a Christmas party this Saturday, December 19, at our house in Gilbert. The spaced-out holiday fun starts at 7:30 pm so send me an RSVP if you can attend. Feel free to bring a drink or snack to share.