updated 8/17/2006 8:49:54 PM ET 2006-08-18T00:49:54

Three NASA advisers who spoke out against budget cuts to the space agency’s science programs turned in their resignations this week, officials said Thursday.

Wesley Huntress, Charles Kennel and Eugene Levy each served on the NASA Advisory Council’s science committee. Kennel resigned by choice, but Huntress and Levy were asked to leave by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.

Levy, a professor of physics and astronomy who also is provost at Rice University in Houston, said their commitment to a broad science program at NASA “didn’t comport with the kind of advice that the administrator and the chairman of the committee were looking for.”

Levy said he understood the budget constraints on NASA, but “we were certainly concerned that a strong commitment to science be maintained.”

When asked if he thought his outspokenness on the science budget led to his forced resignation, Levy said, “That’s a little unclear for me.”

An assistant said Kennel was on vacation and couldn’t be reached, and Huntress didn’t return two phone calls to his office.

NASA press secretary Dean Acosta said that the members of the advisory council serve at the pleasure of the administrator. Acosta said he didn’t know the particulars of why the two were asked to resign.

“I don’t want to give the impression that these guys were outspoken and that’s why they were asked to leave, because that’s not the case at all,” Acosta said. “The administrator is looking for ... members to advise him based on the priority that the agency has and based on what our parameters are.”

NASA has come under fire in the past year for limiting growth in its science budget to 1.5 percent next year and 1 percent each year through the end of the decade. The limits should help the agency pay to finish the international space station and prepare sending astronauts back to the moon.

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