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NASA on deck

As NASA prepares for the first space shuttle flight since the Columbia disaster on Feb. 2, 2003, the space agency remains in a transition stage.

Last month, the Senate confirmed President Bush’s nominee to head the agency, Michael Griffin, an aerospace engineer and applied physicist. Acting Administrator Frederick D. Gregory had stepped into the position on Feb. 20, when former Administrator Sean O’Keefe officially resigned.

NASA is one of the few science agencies to get a boost to its budget this year. Still, several of its missions, including repairing the Hubble Space Telescope, seem to be heading toward extinction, while the president’s vision for future space exploration remains on the front burner.

In light of budget threats to Earth-observing satellite programs, “one of my main concerns,” said Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), chair of the House Science Committee, on March 9, “is ensuring that the full range of science, including earth science, remains a priority at NASA even as we move ahead to return to the moon by 2020.” A full committee hearing on NASA’s earth science programs was scheduled for late April.

Griffin has said he will reconsider repairing the Hubble Space Telescope, a mission that O’Keefe had ruled out, after the space shuttle launches. Part of the “Return to Flight” mission, Discovery is set to launch on May 15.

Naomi Lubick

Link:
"NASA debates Hubble’s fate," Geotimes, February 2005


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