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In tragedy's wake, NASA budget uncertain.

In tragedy's wake, NASA budget uncertain

The administration's fiscal year (FY) 1987 budget plan for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, announced just days after the tragedy of the shuttlecraft Challenger, was actually prepared before it, and thus could change appreciably. Some of those changes could be far-reaching.

The announced budget, which represents a modest increase over FY 1986, includes, for example, $410 million toward the administration's hoped-for U.S. space station, $150 million of which is to begin actual systems development. But even if plans for the facility continue to evolve, its timetable could be affected by the amount of funding that must be diverted in the wake of the accident, such as to construct a replacement for Challenger, whose loss reduced the shuttle fleet from four vehicles to three.

This week, NASA officials announced that the next three shuttle flights formerly on the schedule have been "postponed indefinitely," rather than leaving open the possibility that the shuttle's uncertainties might be resolve quickly. The first of them, to observe Comet Halley in March, would almost surely have been unsavable anyway. But the next two, for launching the European Ulysses mission over the sun's poles and the U.S. Galileo orbiter and probe of Jupiter, had formerly been targeted for May "launch windows" that could extend into early June, conveivably allowing for the slim possibility that the shuttle accident investigators could complete their work in time. Instead, both missions could be launched in June 1987, but only one shuttlecraft, Atlantis, at present is equipped to carry the Centaur upper-stage booster required by both spacecraft, and the 1987 window is too short to allow launching Atlantis twice. A second shuttle could be equipped to handle the job, or one of the two missions could be delayed another 13 months.

Eleven other 1986 missions also face uncertainties.
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Title Annotation:space shuttle explosion
Author:Eberhart, Jonathan
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 15, 1986
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