France's Space Crunch

Science  01 Nov 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5595, pp. 941b
DOI: 10.1126/science.298.5595.941b

French researchers are calling on the head of CNES, the nation's space agency, to resign—and they aren't satisfied by a government promise to review the beleaguered bureaucracy. Research minister Claudie Haigneré last week said she would appoint a committee to study French space policy and the future of the Paris-based CNES.

Some CNES staff members have publicly called on agency chief Alain Bensoussan to resign, saying that he has failed to adequately address financial problems that threaten to squeeze space science programs. Budget shortfalls have already stalled several major projects, including an Earth-observing mission and planning for Mars exploration. And staff members worry that pressure to find funds for the ailing Arianespace satellite launch company and other ventures will further bleed science efforts.

In a bid to mollify critics, Haigneré's panel will study the situation and report back by the end of the year. But Hubert Rodriguez, a union representative at the agency's Toulouse center, vows to keep up the pressure. He says that “in view of our disastrous financial situation, this does not reassure us in the slightest.”

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