Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now  arrow.png

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

    Please leave this field empty

Casey Profile Picture Thumbnail

Astronomy Is Cheap, Too

Posted by Casey Dreier

17-08-2012 11:45 CDT

Topics: astronomy

A VLBA radio telescope slated for divestment

Stevens F. Johnson

A VLBA radio telescope slated for divestment

There was upsetting news today, as the National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences released a report that recommended divesting from several highly successful radio telescopes (PDF here, 4.3 MB).

These include the world's largest maneuverable radio telescope in Green Bank, the Very Long Baseline Array, spread out over six thousand miles, and several telescopes at the Kitt Peak Observatory, including McMath-Pierce solar telescope, the largest of its kind in the world.

Like almost all of the science-focused agencies, the NSF is facing severe budget pressure in the upcoming years. The report makes several hard choices based on projected funding. It prioritizes new telescopes and individual research grants and small-project funding, which makes sense if you think about that as the best way it can support overall research.

Still, this is heartbreaking. I first used VLBA data back when I was an undergraduate, and remember when the GBT telescope came online to great fanfare. I remember very distinctly going to visit the VLBA telescope pictured above in North Liberty, IA, as a child and being awestruck with the size of it.

It's not clear yet if these telescopes will close down without the money provided by the NSF. NASA funds some of these, and there may be other institutions who will step in to help. Still, this represents a major challenge to each one of these sites.

Oh, but the best part. All of these divestments from these telescopes? The ones that the NSF can no longer afford?

20 million dollars.

That's it. My previous posts about Curiosity being cheap are nothing compared to the chump change needed to continue funding these. There's a gnawing, slow decline of our ability to support science in this country. The fact that major telescopes in their prime of their operating existence can be defunded for the lack of a few million dollars is yet another example.

Maybe we should ask Paul Allen? With half of his fortune he could fund these telescopes for another 350 years or so

See other posts from August 2012


Or read more blog entries about: astronomy

Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

Blog Search


Our Curiosity Knows No Bounds!

Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration.

Join Us

Featured Images

Expedition 42 crew poster

Soyuz TMA-15M goes vertical
Soyuz TMA-15M timelapse
Soyuz TMA-15M liftoff
More Images

Featured Video

View Larger »

Space in Images

Pretty pictures and
awe-inspiring science.

See More

Join the New Millennium Committee

Let’s invent the future together!

Become a Member

Connect With Us

Facebook! Twitter! Google+ and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!