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posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday October 25, @10:19PM   Printer-friendly
from the no-actual-scientific-target-needed dept.

The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) may have some of its capabilities scaled back due to overspending on the James Webb Space Telescope and the added cost of a coronagraph that was demanded by exoplanet researchers:

NASA will have to scale back its next big orbiting observatory to avoid busting its budget and affecting other missions, an independent panel says. The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is due for launch in the mid-2020s. But 1 year after NASA gave the greenlight its projected cost is $3.6 billion, roughly 12% overbudget. "I believe reductions in scope and complexity are needed," Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C., wrote in a memo that NASA released last Thursday.

Designed to investigate the nature of dark energy and study exoplanets, WFIRST was chosen by the astronomy community as its top space-based mission priority in the 2010 decadal survey entitled New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics. But the start of the project was initially delayed by the huge overspend on its predecessor, the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be launched in 2019. Then last year, a midterm review of the 2010 decadal survey warned that WFIRST could go the same way and advised NASA to form a panel of independent experts to review the project.

[...] Zurbuchen's memo to Scolese directs the lab to retain the basic elements of the mission—the 2.4-meter mirror, widefield camera, and coronagraph—but to seek cost-saving "reductions." Hertz says this will require reducing the capabilities of instruments but ensuring they remain "above the science floor laid down by the decadal survey." The coronagraph will be recategorized as a "technology demonstration instrument," removing the burden of achieving a scientific target. The change will also save money, Hertz explains. Hertz says exoplanet researchers shouldn't worry about the proposed changes. "We know we'll get good science out of the coronagraph. We'll be able to see debris disks, zodiacal dust, and exoplanets in wide orbits," he says. Astronomers wanting to see Earth twins in the habitable zone may be disappointed, however.


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 26, @12:22AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 26, @12:22AM (#587633)

    the
    cost would be much MUCH lower, and they would probably be fighting each other to launch it ASAP.

    but no, pork must be spread around..
    I know people will jump all over me (as they always do) for even suggesting this, because NASA can do no wrong (I can
    only assume this is because they somehow think its startrek related) however think about it before jerking that knee -
    what we need is a healthy, strong NASA, not one bogged down in stupid contracts and internal red take that all works to
    maximise costs while minimising delivery - that is what we have today.

    Jump! Jump! JUMP! All over Jump! Truly you are a libertariantard idiot. I think you are suggesting we use Somalia's private enterprise space services? The Libertarian Paradise! No stupid contracts, and no internal red take! Just pure adolescent male FREEDOM! Wolverines! In Space!