There follows an extract from an e-mail from Gareth Williams, one of the tiny number of employees at the Minor Planet Centre, the international clearing house for minor planet observations:
“Be aware that assignment of new codes may be delayed as I’m currently unavailable for MPC work due to an exhaustion of the fund used for paying me for such work. I’m currently being paid to do work for the CfA PanSTARRS project full-time until such time as there is money in the MPC fund. The MPC fund actually ran out at the end of 2008, but I wasn’t aware of that fact until Jan. 13, nearing the end of preparing the Jan. MPCs. Hard choice: have seven days of unpaid leave or use up seven days of vacation time. Our internal filing following the Jan. MPCs is complete, but some post-filing tasks remain to be done before the data can be posted in the ECS. The publication of forthcoming mid-month MPS batches is also going to be delayed.”
NASA and other organizations have been supporting the MPC for years, and the British Government committed itself to supporting them in their response to the 2000 report of the “Task Force on Potentially Hazardous Near Earth Objects”
So where is the UK support? So far it has been precisely ZERO. Come on BNSC – time to do something honorable, useful and sensible.