In all, Nasa has trimmed about $1 billion from its space science programmes and $1.5 billion from space exploration.
Consequently, several missions have been pushed back:
the Solar Dynamic Observatory, initially scheduled for May 2009, will now depart 3 months later; GPM* has been delayed 2 years; and the SIM** observatory will launch in 9 years’ time at the earliest.
- Terrestrial Planet Finder has been delayed indefinitely;
- Sofia, a stratospheric infrared astronomy observatory, could go the same way, as no funding has been allocated to it for 2007;
- The NuSTAR telescope and Hydros satellite (to study the water cycle) are looking extremely uncertain.
Priority to ISS and Constellation
- $6.2 billion will be allocated to ISS assembly, for which 16 space shuttle flights are planned. The shuttle flight manifest has nevertheless been scaled back, and Nasa aims to sideline Atlantis in 2008, using it as a “parts donor” for the remaining 2 shuttles that will remain in service until 2010.
- $3.9 billion will be allocated to the Constellation programme. The main beneficiary will be the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) set to take over from the shuttle, with a first operational flight planned no later than 2014. The CEV is also expected to serve for Earth-orbit missions and as a lunar or even Martian launch vehicle.
*GPM: Global Precipitation Measurements
**SIM: Space Interferometry Mission