NASA expects to select a launch vehicle next year to carry the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope — a multibillion-dollar flagship astrophysics observatory targeted for cancellation by the Trump administration — into space in 2025 after the mission passed a key review last month, agency officials said.
The Trump administration is requesting $25.2 billion for NASA in fiscal 2021, a 12 percent increase that includes $3.3 billion to kickstart development of a human-rated lander for the Artemis moon program. Nearly half of the budget request, $12.3 billion, is devoted to new and ongoing projects focused on the return to the moon and eventual flights to Mars.
The White House’s $19.9 billion NASA budget outline released Monday would continue development of NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule and begin the deployment of a mini-space station around the moon as soon as 2022, but the proposal would cancel WFIRST, a flagship-class astronomy mission planned for launch in the mid-2020s.
NASA managers say the WFIRST mission, the next in the agency’s line of powerful observatories after the Hubble and James Webb telescopes, could cost around $3.2 billion after budgeting for a novel first-of-its-kind instrument to probe the make-up of planets around nearby stars and a bigger-than-expected launch vehicle.