March 31, 2020

NASA Science Programs in Danger of being halted

If it was not clear before that the Trump administration is fully backing NASA’s Artemis project, then now it is. In a twist of events, the top most office issued its proposal for what it holds as a priority. The leading among these proposals is the administration’s request to add NASA is funding by a substantial amount. Though the plan holds weight, it is still subject to review from Congress with no said obligation to accept.

However, a recent report of the project revealed that it surpassed its initial value by 15billion. At its launch, then NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhad put the project estimate to be within the budget allocation of 20billion. However, the value of the project now stands close to 30billion. 

The bill further facilitates a Mars robotic exploration mission of $529 million, including samples, for potential Mars missions. The proposal would, however, initiate plans for a new experiment to chart the ice reserves on the earth with close to surface water, which can be utilized for potential human flights.

However, the budget request gives the agency a list of projects “most successful,” which the agency wants to ditch once more. This covers the STEM education branch and the WFIRST Astrophysics projects, the CLARREO Pathfinder, and the PACE Earth Science Project. The 2021 request is perhaps the latest in a row to remove the NASA education division and terminate CLARREO Pathfinder and PACE and the third in a row to recommend WFIRST termination. Congress has declined past attempts to close the department. 

The proposal was aimed at cancelling the StratosfĂ©ric Infrared Astronomy Observatory (SOFIA), an orbital observer costing NASA almost $80 million a year. An OMB report concluded why SOFIA is the second most valuable program in NASA to work in astrophysics, according to Hubble, “but the task has not provided high-quality data or research on a par with other major scientific projects” and that future projections do not suggest that SOFIA would increase its scientific efficiency significantly in the next few years.

Comparably, in its 2015 discretionary spending assessment during the previous administration, NASA recommended the termination of SOFIA, so that it can only allow Congress to dismiss the project and fully bankroll the observatory.

The budget further recommends postponing the upstage development work necessary for the SLS variant of the Block 1B. The administration aims to allow attempts to finalize the first SLS rocket effectively and schedule it for its first launch, before pursuing an expensive multi-year Block 1B development project.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *