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NASA Mulling Fate of Nine Astrophysics Missions
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A NASA Senior Review panel will decide in June how to prioritize funding for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 among nine astrophysics initiatives that currently cost a combined $65 million a year to keep in service.
“The missing money is probably on the order of about $10 million,” Paul Hertz, NASA’s Astrophysics Division director, told members of a NASA Advisory Council panel March 27.
Six of the projects vying for extended funding are U.S.-based. Three are overseen by international space agencies and have U.S. partners.
The NASA missions are:
- The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
- The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array X-ray observatory.
- The infrared Spitzer Space Telescope.
- The Swift Telescope, which tracks gamma ray bursts.
- A proposed Kepler space telescope follow-on mission known as K2.
- The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, which was brought out of hibernation last year to help search for asteroids on a collision course with Earth.
Also in the running are two European Space Agency missions: XMM-Newton — an X-ray observatory — and Planck, which studied relic radiation from the Big Bang. Planck was decommissioned in October, but its data analysis program continues.
The final contender is Japan’s Suzaku X-ray telescope.
The Hubble Space Telescope, which has a proposed $100 million annual budget, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, with an operations budget of about $60 million, are reviewed separately, Hertz said.