We knew the sequester would cut NASA deep -- and we feel it more keenly, we who love science and all things space -- but we didn't know where precisely the blade would fall. We figured travel into space, such as through the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), might be curtailed, but who knew it would limit NASA's travel on Earth, too? That's what's going down. Due to the March 1 sequestration, NASA has issued serious restrictions on the travel of its employees and their participation in major conferences. Essentially, the agency is grounded, but still allowed to play in its room.
We felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of geek voices suddenly cried out in terror and suddenly went where no man has gone before. Because in the world of Presidential speech flubs -- and yes, that's a whole universe -- today's was pretty good. We geeks must set aside our differences, commiserate, and laugh together at the fact that President Obama just conflated Star Wars and Star Trek. But even the White House laughs with us.
When the so-called sequester -- billions upon billions of dollars of cuts to domestic programs, military funding, social services and pretty much any other government program you care to name -- was agreed on in 2011 after a spectacularly unproductive round of budget talks, it was meant to be a gun to the head of the American economy. The idea of making blind, thoughtless cuts to popular programs was thought to be so detrimental to the nation's economy and welfare that the thought of going through it would force Democrats and and Republicans to come together and finally pound out a budget deal that everyone can live with. With the deadline looming and no agreement in sight, though, it seems that we've proven no idea is too stupid for the U.S. government. In all likelihood, the sequester will kick in at the end of this week, making cuts in the budgets of agencies like NASA, the NIH, and plenty more American science and technology agencies. How bad is it going to be? Well, here are just a few ways the sequester will kick the teeth right out of science funding.