Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, along with Congressman Nick Rahall, today pledged their commitment to the continued operations of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, despite an independent Astronomy Portfolio Review Committee recommending National Science Foundation disinvestment in Green Bank and five other telescopes across the country over the next five years.
"I've been in touch with the National Science Foundation and am closely monitoring the situation. It's important to point out that this report is solely a recommendation. To go into effect, it would need support from the Administration and Congress. As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation with oversight of the National Science Foundation, I will fight to make sure that the Green Bank Observatory continues well into the future," Rockefeller said.
"The Green Bank Observatory is a unique scientific asset in West Virginia, and to astronomers and educators throughout the country," Rockefeller said. "It's used by hundreds of scientists, more than 1,500 students and teachers, and more than 50,000 visitors each year. Scientists have used the telescope to make groundbreaking discoveries for over a decade. I have long been a strong supporter of math and science education, and the Green Bank Observatory has helped pave the way by training a new generation of scientists and making the telescope data available online to universities and high school programs throughout the country. One such program led to a West Virginia high school student being honored by the President in 2009 for his work. The needs for this observatory are clear and I will work to make sure it remains open."
"One thing is clear: It makes no sense for our country to build a new $390 million telescope in Chile when we have one of the best telescopes in the world right here in West Virginia. I have spoken with officials at the National Science Foundation and have been assured that no decision has been made on the divestiture of the Green Bank telescope based on the recommendation of the advisory committee," Senator Manchin said. "In fact, any funding changes must be approved by Congress, and I will not only fight this recommendation, I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find a budget solution that trims fat without cutting vital research facilities like Green Bank. In the coming months, I will continue to collaborate with Green Bank officials and the National Science Foundation to make sure that this state-of-the-art telescope is included in the national astronomy portfolio."
"We are not going to give up on a world class facility that aids our State and serves this Nation without a fight," said Rahall, whose Congressional District includes the Green Bank Radio Telescope and National Radio Astronomy Observatory located in Pocahontas County. "Given this austere budgetary environment, I don't think we should take anything for granted. We should explore all of our options for maintaining this facility and the jobs and investments it brings to the area. Certainly, I will work with our Congressional Delegation to make the case to the National Science Foundation. At this point, all we are talking about is a recommendation by an independent review commission; the National Science Foundation has not made any decision about divesting itself of the Green Bank Radio Telescope."