Science  10 Sep 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5690, pp. 1547

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  1. Big Bucks for Buck Rogers

    NASA may need up to $32 billion more than it currently estimates for its proposed human exploration effort. The $127 billion figure, suggested this week by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), is a third higher than what the agency envisions spending to return humans to the moon by 2020 and take the first steps toward Mars.

    NASA managers have argued that they can keep the costs of the Bush Administration's exploration plan within the agency's current $15 billion annual budget by using robotic technologies while retiring the shuttle and space station. But the study by CBO, Congress's bipartisan accounting arm, expresses skepticism that those savings will materialize. Without huge funding increases, it warns, NASA will have to divert nearly half of planned aeronautics and science spending to exploration. Overall, CBO estimates that NASA may need a budget two-thirds larger than its current allocation by 2015 in order to meet its exploration schedule.

    Such predictions may make it more difficult for NASA to persuade Congress, which returned from a summer recess this week, to begin funding its exploration program.

  2. CITES Withholds Caviar Quotas

    Conservationists are welcoming a move by a United Nations agency that effectively suspends international trade in this year's caviar (sturgeon eggs) from the Caspian Sea region by delaying new export quotas.

    Some scientists say that five Caspian states—which supply 90% of the world's caviar—have obscured overfishing by overstating the health of wild sturgeon stocks. Last March, a committee of the U.N.'s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) asked its secretariat to determine whether the exporters were complying with a global sturgeon conservation agreement (Science, 26 March, p. 1955). But the nations have yet to provide needed information, says James Armstrong, deputy secretary general of CITES. In particular, estimating levels of illegal fishing in order to set sustainable quotas has proved “difficult for them … almost impossible,” he says.

    The 166 CITES members are now likely to bar Caspian caviar imports until the quotas are approved. Exporters, meanwhile, would like new numbers approved by November, so they can sell during the peak holiday season. Existing stocks will remain on the market.