Middlebury The recent passing of astronaut Neil Armstrong—the first human to step foot on a heavenly body beyond Earth—was a reminder of America’s glorious scientific leadership of the recent past versus its precarious status in 2012.
Even the recent discovery—by European researchers—of the subatomic Higgs boson, the so-called God Particle, calls to mind the closure, since 1993, of two of America’s own vital atomic research instruments: the Desertron (also called the SSC or Superconducting Super Collider), and the Tevatron accelerator at Fermilab near Chicago.
Regarding the stillborn SSC, had it been completed by the mid 1990s as planned (before Congress pulled the plug on the project in 1993), U.S. researchers probably would have discovered the elusive Higgs boson a dozen years before their European counterparts. In the highly competitive field of international basic science, months, even weeks are critical.
I still remember U.S. President Bill Clinton’s words to Congress in June 1993: “Abandoning the SSC at this point would signal that the United States is compromising its position of leadership in basic science.” History proved Clinton to be correct.
In America, we’re quick to pull the plug on basic science before looking at where to trim the fat in bloated entitlement programs.
Now comes the startling news that the last U.S. undersea research laboratory is about to be shut down.
The Aquarius Undersea Habitat, located on a coral reef off the shore of Key Largo, Fla., is in jeopardy. It looks like NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will pull the plug on this important science facility.
During the 1960s, the heyday of sea exploration, there were 60 underwater habitats supported by 17 nations. Today, only Aquarius remains.
Out of a $5 billion annual NOAA budget, only $3 million is needed to keep Aquarius operating. This seems like a small amount of money, especially when you consider entitlements.