ScienceScope

Science  12 May 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5775, pp. 827
  1. Venus Express Blues

    Europe's Venus Express spacecraft, orbiting the veiled planet since 11 April, has jammed a mirror on its Planetary Fourier Spectrometer, a key instrument that looks for volcanic hot spots.

    Project scientist Håkan Svedhem of the European Space Agency says the problem is “completely unrelated” to a short-lived hitch with a similar instrument on the agency's Mars Express spacecraft in 2005. “It looks like the mirror is starting to move again,” says Svedhem, promising a “careful approach” to tests.

  2. From Lunar Hitchhiking ...

    NEW DELHI—After more than a year of navigating U.S. red tape, the Indian space agency and NASA have agreed that U.S. instruments will ride India's first moon mission. Concerns about both technology-sharing and security had blocked the agreement, but officials finally inked a deal earlier this week in Bangalore.

    Under the pact, the Chandrayaan-I mission will carry a miniature radar to search for elusive water and a mineralogy mapper to help find helium-3 for future fusion power. NASA chief Michael Griffin, who met Indian Space Research Organization chair G. Madhavan Nair to sign the accord, hopes the launch, slated for 2008, will open a new era of Indo-U.S. space cooperation. Officials hope this summer to iron out proprietary technology agreements for future joint missions.

  3. ... To Moon-Mulling

    NASA plans to send a bevy of missions to the moon in coming years, and it has asked the National Academies' National Research Council for advice on what to do there. Among other things, NASA Science Mission Directorate Chief Scientist Paul Hertz last week told researchers that the agency wants to know what kinds of experiments could fit into a suitcase-sized box that future astronauts could deploy on the surface, similar to what Apollo astronauts left behind during their forays in the 1970s.

    The work raises fears of further science budget erosion at NASA (see p. 824), and Hertz warned that “there isn't new money to do [lunar] science, but there are new opportunities.” An interim version of the fast-track report is due to NASA in September, and the final report will be completed late next spring.

  4. Phooey on Zerhouni?

    Leaders at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are fending off new criticism of their boss, Elias Zerhouni. The kerfuffle began last month when Andrew Marks, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, blamed Zerhouni's “Roadmap” of trans-NIH initiatives and large clinical trials for diverting money from investigator-initiated grants. “Obviously you are not a scientist,” Marks charged.

    In a late April online response, all 27 directors of NIH's institutes and centers called Marks's comments a “personal attack” and a diversion from “the real issues.” Marks responds that supportive e-mails show “a substantial divide” between NIH leaders and the community.

  5. NIEHS: Doctors Wanted

    The director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) wants his agency to get more clinical. The $641 million agency has traditionally supported research on topics as diverse as DNA repair and harmful algal blooms. But Director David Schwartz wants to boost the clinical researcher corps and focus efforts on diseases with a strong environmental component such as asthma.

    Schwartz says the new focus, unveiled last week in a strategic plan, won't come at the expense of basic research: “We're not taking anything away.” But observers fear Schwartz's inevitable tradeoffs. “That's what everyone will be waiting to see,” says toxicologist David Eaton of the University of Washington, Seattle.

  6. NIH Eyes Training Support Cuts

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) wants universities to pay a greater portion of the cost of training graduate students and postdocs. NIH now pays $3000 plus 60% of the remaining tuition costs for each of the 17,000 Ph.D. students and postdocs supported through the National Research Service Award program. Under the new policy, the agency will provide 60% up to a maximum of $16,000 per year, with additional cash for health insurance and expenses.

    The agency says the proposed policy, introduced this week, will save 2500 training slots that would otherwise eventually disappear if NIH's budget remains flat. Universities will “do everything we can” to bear the new cost and “avoid the loss of training slots,” says Lynda Dykstra of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The comment period ends 2 June.

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