One of NASA’s planned space telescopes is on the chopping block. President Trump just released his budget request for the 2019 fiscal year, and despite an overall increase of about $370 million over its 2018 budget, NASA is facing potential cuts.
Among those are five Earth science missions, the agency’s education office, and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). Satellites for the Earth science missions were slated for elimination in last year’s budget negotiations, though they ultimately remained funded.
The WFIRST telescope, planned for launch in the mid-2020s, is intended to observe large areas of the sky to examine how dark matter and dark energy affect the distribution of galaxies and galaxy clusters. It also has instruments to find and take images of planets around other stars.
An independent review committee found the telescope couldn’t be built with its original $2 billion budget, and would require significantly more money or major design changes. WFIRST has been competing for funding with the planet-hunting James Webb Space Telescope, which is cited as a reason for the cancellation.
“Developing another large space telescope immediately after completing the $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope is not a priority for the Administration,” the budget request stated. This proposal also includes plans to end NASA funding for the International Space Station in 2025, with a possibility of handing over its operation to commercial firms.
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