NASA’S outdated labs jeopardize research-report

* Report finds 48 percent cut in aeronautics budget

* NASA science losing competitive edge

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON, May 11 (BestGrowthStock) – Many of NASA’s research labs
are old, and budget cuts have seriously jeopardized scientific
research at the space agency, according to a National Research
Council report released on Tuesday.

Bureaucratic changes mean that staff running the labs have
to spend an inordinate amount of time asking for money while
their facilities disintegrate, a panel of experts appointed by
the council said.

“The fundamental research community at NASA has been
severely impacted by the budget reductions that are responsible
for this decrease in laboratory capabilities, and as a result,
NASA’s ability to support even NASA’s future goals is in
serious jeopardy,” they conclude in the report.

The report does not say NASA should spend any particular
amount of money to fix the problems but recommends that the
agency shift its emphasis to upgrading the facilities.

The report lands as President Barack Obama tries to sell a
new vision of space exploration that includes public-private
partnerships to replace the government-dominated model that
sent astronauts to the Moon 40 years ago.

Obama has asked for a $6 billion increase in NASA’s budget
to help ramp up exploration of the solar system and increase
Earth-based climate change studies.

NASA commissioned the National Research Council, one of the
independent National Academies of Sciences that advises the
federal government on medical and scientific policy, to look at
its science labs before Obama’s changes were in place.

The panel found that NASA has systematically neglected
research laboratories at six NASA centers — the Ames Research
Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, the
Glenn Research Center in Ohio, Goddard Space Flight
Center in Maryland, Langley Research Center in Virginia, and
Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

“These research capabilities have taken years to develop
and depend on highly competent and experienced personnel and
infrastructure,” said Joseph Reagan, a retired vice president
at Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT.N: ), who helped chair the panel.

“Without adequate resources, laboratories can deteriorate
very quickly and will not be easily reconstituted.”

MAINTENANCE BUDGET

For instance, the report found the amount NASA needs to
spend for maintenance has grown from $1.77 billion in 2004 to
$2.46 billion in 2009.

“A reduction in funding of 48 percent for the aeronautics
programs over … 2005-2009 has significantly challenged NASA’s
ability to achieve its mission to advance U.S. technological
leadership in aeronautics in partnership with industry,
academia, and other government agencies that conduct
aeronautics-related research and to keep U.S. aeronautics in
the lead internationally,” the report reads.

“Approximately 20 percent of all NASA facilities are
dedicated to research and development: on average, they are not
state of the art: they are merely adequate to meet current
needs,” it adds.

“Over 80 percent of NASA facilities are more than 40 years
old and need significant maintenance and upgrades to preserve
the safety and continuity of operations for critical
missions.”

The panelists found a pattern of researchers “expending
inordinate amounts of time writing proposals seeking funding to
maintain their laboratory capabilities” and then looking for
money elsewhere.

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(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

NASA’S outdated labs jeopardize research-report