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The troubled politics of ground-based astronomy

Link here. The article outlines the politics and negotiations now going on during the writing of the next astronomy decadal survey, the document American astronomers have published every decade since the 1960s to provide the science agencies in the federal government guidance on how to spend the taxpayers’ money on the next decade’s astronomy projects.

The focus is on the problems now faced by the two big American ground-based telescopes, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) and the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT).

The future of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) and the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) likely depends on whether the survey recommends that NSF spend what sources put at $1.8 billion to support a recently forged partnership between the projects. If it does, other proposals could lose out, such as a ­continent-spanning radio array and detectors for neutrinos and other cosmic particles.

While some astronomers are pushing for this $1.8 billion bailout to save both, others are arguing the money can be better spent elsewhere. There is also a third option, not mentioned, which would be to abandon one of these telescopes and instead build just one.

The story is focused entirely on ground-based astronomy, which is remarkably very near-sighted for scientists whose job it is to see a far as possible. The future of astronomy is in space, and to not consider that alternative in this discussion means you aren’t considering all your options. For $1.8 billion, using private rockets and competitive construction approaches, I strongly believe a very large optical telescope could be launched that would provide far more cutting edge astronomy than any larger ground-based telescope. Hubble has proven that endlessly for the past thirty years.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

4 comments

  • Tom Billings

    You are correct that a far more useful satellite could be done in orbit, and indeed far more space telescopes would be available for observing the Universe, making the rest of the Universe a real thing for the majority of the population around the world, but leaving out:

    1.) Well-paid career enhancing researcher conclaves to decide on each instrument, out of many possible instruments, to attach to *the* telescope’s imaging end.

    2.) The ability of Universities organizing the deep range and planetary science to dominate the process of selecting whose observations get time on the telescopes.

    3.) The ability of political patrons of the Space Telescope Institute to garner the political benefits of guiding subcontracts for both instruments and the scope itself into politically useful districts. No political profit maens their subsidy of the activity will drop, and that would mean depending even more on the unwashed dollars of market participants.

    4.) Like the Charters of the British East Indies Corp., and others, the STI has a present monopoly on space telescopes, and you would steal that away from them, … unthinkable!

  • Tom Billings:

    “You have been too long absent from the games, Flavius.”

    STTOG: ‘Bread and Circuses’ 1966

  • Jeff Wright

    “Are you Appius Claudius?”
    Nah, Gov’ I’m unhappy as ‘ell!

  • Star Bird

    You can always see a a lot more Stars when there is no Artificial Light i can remember seeing lots of Stars while Camping at Night

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