Feeds

ISS science sacrificed on Martian altar

Budget slashed by $344m

Build a business case: developing custom apps

NASA is planning to slash millions of dollars from the International Space Station's science budget in a bid to find the cash it needs to fulfil President Bush's ambition to return to the moon, and journey to Mars. Somehow, the agency needs to lay its hands on an extra $5bn of funding.

The space agency is cutting $344m from the ISS' budget next year, The Guardian reports, by canning the station's research programme. Hundreds of contractors are being laid off, and many experiments are simply being cancelled, the paper says.

Michael Griffin, NASA administrator, explained that he has had to put the station's construction ahead of the science. Addressing the US House committee on science he said:

"It seemed to me it was getting the cart before the horse to be worrying about money for human or other life sciences when we could not assure ourselves the continued capability to be able to place people in orbit in the first place."

While the cuts will not be good news for those directly affected, many space scientists have regarded the space station as being very poor value for money in terms of the research output.

It is also way over budget and long overdue: it was supposed to cost $18bn and be complete by 2003. Instead it has been something of a black hole for NASA's funds. So far the US is estimated to have spent over $100bn on its share of the ISS, and it is not likely to be finished before 2017.

Keith Cowing, a former NASA scientist and now editor of the NASA Watch web site says that Griffin privately refers to the ISS as an albatross. "The only reason he has to continue with it," he told The Guardian, "is that we have binding international treaty commitments with Europe and the Pacific nations."

He's also constrained by the other nations who have invested so far: European and Japanese modules have yet to be launched and added to the station. Finally, consider how NASA's credibility would be affected if it did pull the plug.

"Picture a congressional hearing where Griffin says he's going to abandon this thing we just spent $100bn on," Cowing commented. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.