Budget Brings Hubble to EndBy Warren E. Leary
THE NEW YORK TIMES
NASA would get a modest increase in President Bush’s 2006 budget, but the $16.5 billion in proposed spending includes no money to save the Hubble Space Telescope.
Although the proposed 2.4 percent increase for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration still requires cutbacks and slowdowns in programs, the agency counts itself lucky compared with other agencies.
A year ago Bush outlined a new vision of space exploration, one that would return humans to the moon around 2020 as a steppingstone to the rest of the solar system. At a news conference Monday, the agency’s administrator, Sean O’Keefe, said, “The president’s vision remains an administration priority, but we still have to deal with resource constraints.”
The budget is a half-billion dollars less than the agency expected in long-term plans outlined last year, O’Keefe said. The proposal allots $9.6 billion for science, aeronautics and exploration, and $6.7 billion for exploration capabilities, including the operation of the space shuttle and the International Space Station and the early development of a new manned space vehicle.
The science budget includes $75 million for planning a robotic mission to bring the Hubble telescope down safely at the end of its life. Operators believe that the telescope, which is 14 years old, could stop operating in 2007 or 2008 because of deteriorating batteries and gyroscopes.
Alphonso V. Diaz, head of the agency’s science directorate, said another $18 million would go to finding ways to extend the telescope’s useful life without trying to repair it.
O’Keefe stood by his decision of a year ago to bar sending astronauts to the telescope for a fifth time, saying it was too risky for the crew and violated safety guidelines set by investigators of the Columbia disaster two years ago.
He said agency priorities included returning shuttles to flight late this spring and resuming building of the space station.
Steve Isakowitz, the NASA comptroller, said some science programs would be delayed to save money. That includes a large spacecraft that is to explore the icy moons of Jupiter under nuclear power.