Skywatch

  • August 17, 2006

    Episode 51: NASA's Budget

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    NASA, just like the rest of us, must balance a checkbook. Sometimes the unexpected occurs, requiring adjustments. A lot of input goes into deciding the finances for science missions. Scientists construct plans that span 10 years. NASA must balance its priorities and come up with realistic costs for the missions. Then Congress enters the act, placing constraints. Recently, the Bush administration mandated an exploration program, and the space shuttle program experienced a tragedy and numerous related problems. Budgeting became particularly complex. Earlier this year, NASA submitted a budget to Congress that eliminated the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a telescope mounted in a plane. On July 7, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin announced SOFIA would be restored, but at the cost of the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM), designed to measure the distances between stars.