As you might expect in the doldrums of August, there wasn’t much news on the space policy front last week; good news for me while I spent the week on vacation. A few items of note:
- NASA is looking for more money in its FY2007 budget proposal for the Mars Scout program, an effort to develop low-cost Mars mission analogous to the Discovery program of planetary science missions. Phoenix, the first Mars Scout mission, is scheduled for launch in 2007, with the second Mars Scout mission planned for 2011. The experience from Phoenix told NASA Mars managers that the original cost cap of $325 million is too low, and instead are looking for something at or above $400 million.
- Ongoing cost overruns with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) could degrade the telescope’s effectiveness, New Scientist reports. One proposed way to cut $150 million from JWST is to polish the telescope’s mirror segments once instead of twice. That would prevent the telescope from making effective observations at wavelengths below 1.7 microns unless it took much longer exposures. While JWST was designed primarily to observe at infrared wavelengths, astronomers had hoped to use the telescope down to 0.6 microns, in the middle of the visible band. This could lead to pressure on NASA and Congress from astronomers who do work at visible wavelengths to either preserve this capability on JWST and/or ensure that a Hubble servicing mission is restored.
- ATK, which arguably has the most to gain or lose on NASA’s pending decision for new crew and cargo launch vehicles, has enlisted a number of former astronauts as lobbyists. Six former astronauts—Daniel Barry, John Blaha, Charles Bolden, Daniel Bursch, Franklin Chang-Diaz, and Thomas Jones—have registered as lobbyists representing the company. Another former astronaut, Scott Horowitz, already works for ATK; he was pushing for a SRB-derived CEV launch vehicle even before he left NASA last year.