NASA Abruptly Delays a Critical Planetary Defense Mission

NASA administration should approve the motion from one part to a different. These are often called Key Decision Points (KDPs) and require the crew to argue their case to NASA and to an unbiased evaluation board to display their readiness to proceed with a profitable mission. Normally, the motion from Phase A to Phase B isn’t a main problem, because the challenge nonetheless stays in formulation with out a formal price estimate or dedication to constructing the spacecraft.As not too long ago as a week previous to NEO Surveyor mission’s KDP-B, representatives from NASA had publicly said their intent to proceed shifting the challenge ahead. It is unclear what occurred within the interim to set off the sudden delay.A press release from a NASA spokesperson supplied some context, however averted particulars: “The decision to delay the start of the next phase of this important mission is based on factors external to the NEO Surveyor project team. Specifically, NASA needs more time to assess COVID-19 impacts to the overall Planetary Science Division budget and assess appropriate life cycle costs for this mission to support decisions at KDP-B, as NEO Surveyor formulation activities continue.”The NEO Surveyor mission has now been in Phase A for over 5 years. Few—if any—missions have remained on this early formulation purgatory for thus lengthy, unable to maneuver ahead with making vital contracts for key supplies and {hardware}, and unable to develop a detailed price and schedule plan.There is not any debate concerning the significance of the NEO Surveyor mission. In 2019, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine launched a report calling for a space-based infrared telescope to search out NEOs—precisely what the NEO Surveyor mission is. NASA’s personal Inspector General concluded that the company had “consistently underfunded” its NEO observations program, and that, at present projections, there isn’t sufficient funding to launch the NEO Surveyor mission till as late as 2030.Congress has been clear in its assist, with a variety of items of laws within the Senate calling for a launch of the mission by 2025. The House of Representatives has additionally included supportive language in its NASA laws, together with directing not less than $40 million for the challenge in 2021.And, if nothing else, the U.S. public considers planetary protection missions like NEO Surveyor to be one of many highest-priority actions of the house company.

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