"Urgent: HQ Direction," began a message e-mailed on April 1 to dozens of scientists and officials at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
It was not an alert about an incoming asteroid, a problem with the space station or a solar storm. It was a warning about a movie.
In "The Day After Tomorrow," a $125 million disaster film set to open on May 28, global warming from accumulating smokestack and tailpipe gases disrupts warm ocean currents and sets off an instant ice age.
Few climate experts think such a prospect is likely, especially in the near future. But the prospect that moviegoers will be alarmed enough to blame the Bush administration for inattention to climate change has stirred alarm at the space agency, scientists there say.
"No one from NASA is to do interviews or otherwise comment on anything having to do with" the film, said the April 1 message, which was sent by Goddard's top press officer. "Any news media wanting to discuss science fiction vs. science fact about climate change will need to seek comment from individuals or organizations not associated with NASA."
Copies of the message, and the one from NASA headquarters to which it referred, were provided to The New York Times
by a senior NASA scientist who said he resented attempts to muzzle climate researchers.
Late last week, however, NASA appeared to relax its stand on discussing the movie. Though she did not disavow the e-mail, Gretchen Cook-Anderson, a spokeswoman at NASA headquarters, said on Thursday that the agency would make scientists available to discuss issues raised by the film.
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