NASA may struggle to afford new space missions

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London, Nov 30 : A new report by a US National Research Council panel has indicated that the huge tag prices attached to NASA's proposed space missions will make it difficult for the agency to scrape together the necessary cash.ccording to a report in New Scientist, many of the missions will cost a minimum of 5 billion dollars.

"They are flagship class missions, and if you look at what the NASA budget is now for science missions, it doesn't seem like a lot of them would fit in that budget," said a panel co-chair and former shuttle astronaut Kathryn Thornton, who is now at the University of Virginia.

Equally worried is former NASA science chief Alan Stern, who has argued that projects overrunning their budgets by billions of dollars, like the James Webb Space Telescope and the Mars Science Laboratory, are sharply limiting the number and capability of missions NASA can undertake, and that they will continue to do so if not brought under control.

NASA is developing the brawny Ares V rocket to take astronauts back to the moon. But, it is also hoping the rocket will double up as a heavy lifter for robotic science missions which the current shuttles are too puny to lift off the ground.

In the works, though yet to be approved, are a visible-light space telescope with an 8-metre mirror that would dwarf Hubble's, and an interstellar probe that could explore space beyond the boundaries of our solar system.

ANI

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