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Decline Is Seen in Nasa

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The decline of basic research at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration jeopardizes the agency’s ability to study and explore the cosmos, a review panel of scientists and engineers said Tuesday.

The findings could bolster the arguments of the Obama administration that NASA’s current effort to send astronauts back to the Moon is too expensive and is siphoning too much money from other programs. The president’s $19 billion budget for NASA in the 2011 fiscal year would cancel the Moon program, known as Constellation, and replace it with the development of technologies intended to achieve a cheaper, more sustainable approach for sending people into space.

Tuesday’s report from the National Research Council, the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that research laboratories at the 10 NASA centers for studying materials, aeronautics and other basic science were merely “marginally adequate.”

About 80 percent of the laboratories are more than 40 years old, and deferred maintenance costs have swelled to $2.46 billion this year, from $1.77 billion in 2004. As a result, the report said, the agency is less able to tackle challenges encountered by its space and aeronautical missions.

From The New York Times
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