NASA budget gets extra for Hubble

November 17, 2005|By ORLANDO SENTINEL

WASHINGTON -- NASA got what it wanted - and more - yesterday when the Senate approved a $16.5 billion annual spending plan for the space agency in an otherwise very tight budget year.

The money will pay for the start-up of NASA's new moon-Mars venture, more space shuttle flights, a repair mission to the Hubble telescope and other programs.

The spending plan for 2006, which passed 94-5, is a slight increase over the current budget.

But the agency is looking at an expensive transition in the next few years as it tries to balance the cost of ending its shuttle program and International Space Station construction with the planned voyages to the moon and Mars.

NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin maintains he can manage both the old programs and ramping up the new exploration plan under the current budget.

But Congress overruled him on some points and added more money than President Bush and NASA had requested earlier this year.

The space agency's annual budget will be $260.3 million more than it received last year. Congress restored money that had been cut from aeronautics research, slipped in millions in what critics call hometown pet projects and added money to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

The space agency has been reluctant to undertake the work on Hubble, whose batteries will run out sometime after the beginning of 2007 without the repair.

But Hubble - which has caught the public imagination with pictures from deep space - is popular with members of Congress, especially those from Maryland, where the NASA program is based.

Under the budget bill, Hubble will get an extra $50 million for the repair mission, for a total of $271 million for the space telescope.

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