NASA: the penny drops

The word came out last night that the GEMS Small Explorer Class Mission has been cancelled.

GEMS is an x-ray polarimetry mission, using new detector technology, and the rumours (from the "Astronomers" group on fb) are that an Independent Cost Estimate showed the mission blowing its budget.
The mission passed a design review earlier this spring, but was red flagged on the mission chart at a recent NASA Astrophysics status presentation.

Now, some of you may remember the flap over the NASA Senior Review last month.
A review of ongoing missions recommended that all be continued at present level, or even with incremental funding, and some of us were getting quite upset at this, while others were jubilant that all was well.

Well, the problem was, that even if NASA gets all the funding requested for the next budget year(s), there was not going to be enough money in the Astrophysics line to fund all the ongoing missions. So, all things being equal, the Senior Review recommendations were impossible.
Unless funding was found somewhere else.

Well, zeroing GEMS would pretty much exactly fill this gap, enabling continued operations and data analysis of all ongoing missions past their nominal mission lifetime.
For another year or two.

Beyond that, something must give, again.
But that is a topic for another post.

This of course assumes that the super-budget deal for automatic ~ 10% cuts does not trigger on Jan 1st, and that the final Congressional budget is no worse than the Presidential request, and that Congress does not add contradictory mandates on line spending to the budget appropriation.


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Hey Steinn, a bit off topic, but FYI your URLs are all malformed. There's an extra http mixed in there.

Ok, the new editor has a URL thingy embedder, it must automatically prepend an http:// and cut'n'paste usually also picks up an http://

live and learn

SMEX class missions have historically (at least in Heliophysics: SAMPEX, FAST, SNOE, IMAGE) delivered a lot of bang for the buck, so having one cancelled is definitely bad news.

Then again, since they are small missions they might not have a lot of political capital to begin with, and drastically overrunning your budget is a good way to lose political capital these days. Or it might be a convenient excuse for some enemy of the PI to stick in the knife.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 25 May 2012 #permalink