Gore "Space Camera" Idea Lost In Space?
by Frank Sietzen "SpaceCast News Service"
Washington, DC March 18, 1998 - U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Jr. may have had an inspiration last week with his "dream" of an orbiting space camera. But some critics - and others on Capitol Hill that would have to approve the funding - were wondering if the V.P. has simply playing an out-of-this-world joke on taxpayers.
What started out was a dream Gore said he had about the image of the full earth disk made available to anyone anywhere, 24 hours a day. Within days of the politician's "vision", Gore had NASA administrator Daniel S. Goldin revved up to full tilt to support the plan. Costing somewhere between $25 and $50 million, the project would call for a small satellite carrying a high definition television camera and small telescope blasted from the space shuttle to a point at L-1, some one million miles above the earth.
There the "space camera" would train its lens on the rotating earth all the time, with the color images downloaded to the Internet and available to students everywhere. Gore, in his announcement of the idea last Friday, claimed that it would help in the study of forest fires and weather patterns. But some critics wondered just how valuable the images from the "Gore Cam" would be to scientists. "The scientific value of this project is very limited," National Space Society director Pat Dasch said. Dash was one of the few public officials that would go on the record last week in questioning the idea, although plenty of others voiced their doubts -quietly, so as to not offend a potential future U.S. president. "I must say," said one space program observer that asked not to be named, "this is a really dumb idea, particularly when you consider how much has been cut from NASA's budget."
And the pols on the Hill have just started to react to the plan. Look for Goldin to get a grilling this week when he appears before the House Space Subcommittee to defend the space station - which is about $3.9 billion over budget and headed for more troubled waters as the nation's space priorities are once again argued over in Washington.
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