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Because of a $10 million shortfall in its astrophysics budget, NASA is weighing the fate of nine operating space telescopes.
Six of the projects vying for extended funding are U.S.-based. Three are overseen by international space agencies and have U.S. partners.
The NASA missions are: the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope; the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array X-ray observatory; the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope; the Swift Telescope, which tracks gamma-ray bursts; a proposed Kepler space telescope follow-on mission known as K2; and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, which was brought out of hibernation last year to help search for asteroids on a collision course with Earth.
Also in the running are two European Space Agency missions, XMM-Newton — an X-ray observatory — and Planck, which studied relic radiation from the Big Bang. Planck was decommissioned in October, but its data analysis program continues.
The final contender is Japan’s Suzaku X-ray telescope.