Saturday, January 22, 2005

Will Hubble Survive?

The Washington Post reports that NASA's 2006 budget request eliminates funds for servicing the Hubble Space Telescope. Link.

NASA is scrapping plans to service the Hubble Space Telescope, either with the space shuttle or with a robot repairman, a decision likely to set up a fresh confrontation with Congress over the fate of the orbiting observatory.

Sources said that the White House, in consultation with NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, had decided to eliminate the Hubble funding from the 2006 federal budget because the cost of servicing is expected to exceed $1 billion.

The sources said the administration made the decision despite its intention to ask Congress for a 4.6 percent budget increase for NASA to $17 billion. The request is expected to focus on plans to reorient NASA's priorities toward President Bush's "Vision for Space Exploration" to the moon and Mars.

This would be a shame. Many NASA programs are wasted money, but the Hubble has been incredibly productive.

My guess is that this represents bureaucratic games. The NASA people are asking for as large a budget increase as they are likely to get. My bet: they are hoping that Congress will leave in what is already in the budget and then add in the money to service Hubble, a very popular program in Congress.

It's like a description I once read of how the various services approach appropriations for a new base. The Marines will build all of the military facilities first. When they run out of money, the go to Congress an tell them, "We have run out of money, and we still haven's built the golf course." They are turned down. The Air Force builds the golf course first. When they run out of money, they go to Congress and tell them,"We have run out of money, and we still haven's built the runways." They get the extra money.


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