September 21, 2012

Manchin, Rockefeller & Rahall Fight to Protect Green Bank Observatory

Senators, Congressman Ask Director of National Science Foundation to Keep Pocahontas County Facility Open

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, along with Congressman Nick Rahall, announced today that they are taking new steps to keep open the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank. 

Rockefeller, Manchin and Rahall this week sent a letter to NSF Director Dr. Subra Suresh seeking more details about the NSF’s Astronomy Portfolio Review, which recommended the Foundation divest itself of its operations in Green Bank

“It’s important that the NSF understands the vital role the Green Bank Observatory plays, not only in Pocahontas County, but throughout the scientific community worldwide,” Rockefeller said. “I’m deeply concerned about the report on two levels. First, as a West Virginian, I know just how important this facility is to its employees, the Pocahontas County community at large, as well as the students, teachers and community members who enjoy the wonders the observatory has to teach us all. Second, as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation – which oversees the National Science Foundation – I know the valuable contribution the facility has made to scientific discovery. It serves as a global hub for math and science education, which is vital to American competitiveness in the classroom and around the world. I am fully committed to keeping Green Bank open and thriving.”

“The Green Bank Observatory is a world-class scientific facility, and I am committed to making sure that our federal government doesn’t walk away from a resource that has and will contribute so much to science and discovery,” Senator Manchin said. “Since this report was released, I have been in contact with officials at the National Science Foundation to make sure that this state-of-the-art telescope is included in the national astronomy portfolio. This observatory means so much to the community in Pocahontas County, WVU and our entire state, as well as scientists around the world, and 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.”

“Our letter makes clear to NSF officials that the West Virginia Congressional Delegation is united in strongly opposing the Astronomy Portfolio Review Committee’s recommendation that the NSF disinvest in Green Bank. Frankly, it is ridiculous to suggest that it makes fiscal sense to walk away from such a substantial investment.  In the coming months, I hope to reinforce that message and explore every practical option to keep this world-class facility operational,” said Rahall.

The move comes in the wake of a report last month that recommended the National Science Foundation pull its financial support for the Pocahontas County facility.

A copy of the letter is available by clicking here.


The National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope is the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. It has been in full-scale scientific operation since 2002. 

Last month, the NSF’s Astronomy Portfolio Review Committee recommended that the NSF divest itself from the Green Bank Observatory over the next five years. The NSF has said it will not act on that recommendation until the end of 2013.