Scroll down to read this post.


I am now in the third week of my annual February birthday fund-raising drive. The first two weeks were good, but not record-setting.


There are still two weeks left in this campaign however. If you have been a regular reader and a fan of my work and have not yet donated or subscribed, please consider doing so. I take no ads, I keep the website clean from pop-ups and annoying demands (most of the time). Thus, I depend entirely on my readers to support me. Though this means I am sacrificing some income, it also means that I remain entirely independent from outside pressure. By depending solely on donations and subscriptions from my readers, no one can threaten me with censorship. You don't like what I write, you can simply go elsewhere.


You can support me either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are five ways of doing so:


1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.


2. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.

3. A Paypal Donation:

4. A Paypal subscription:

5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

NASA: Budget cuts to Hubble/Chandra under consideration

In what is likely a negotiating ploy with Congress to prevent any budget cuts at all at NASA, the agency revealed late last week that it is considering cutting the budgets to both the Hubble and Chandra space telescopes in order to meet proposed budget limits.

In an Oct. 13 presentation to the National Academies’ Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics, Mark Clampin, director of NASA’s astrophysics division, said he was studying unspecified cuts in the operating budgets of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope to preserve funding for other priorities in the division.

The potential cuts, he said, are driven by the expectation that his division will not receive the full request of nearly $1.56 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2024 because of legislation passed in June that caps non-defense discretionary spending for 2024 at 2023 levels, with only a 1% increase for 2025. “We’re working with the expectation that FY24 budgets stay at the ’23 levels,” he said. “That means that we have decided to reduce the budget for missions in extended operations, and that is Chandra and Hubble.”

That he provided no details suggests this is merely a lobbying tactic. Essentially he is saying to Congress, “If you don’t give me more money I will be forced to shut down our most popular programs. That won’t sit well with your constituents!”

That the House in its appropriations to NASA for 2024 did not cut the agency’s budget significantly also suggests this is mere lobbying. There should be no reason to trim Hubble or Chandra, which are two of the agency’s most successful projects, unless the cost overruns on SLS/Orion and the Mars Sample Return missions are forcing NASA to grab money from other programs. If so, that problem is not Congress’s, but NASA’s. The agency should reconsider those failed projects in order to keep what works working.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Ray Van Dune

    “There should be no reason to trim Hubble or Chandra, which are two of the agency’s most successful projects, unless the cost overruns on SLS/Orion and the Mars Sample Return missions are forcing NASA to grab money from other programs. If so, that problem is not Congress’s, but NASA’s. The agency should reconsider those failed projects in order to keep what works working.”

    Of course the problem is that development projects like SLS and MSR spread the pork $$$ around much better than operational programs like HST and Chandra… all the latter do is generate scientific results!

    Even worse, neither SLS or MSP can be expected to have an extended operational life to speak of, since they are both nearly one-shot deals, each being potentially obviated by SpaceX alternatives!

  • Ray Van Dune

    I remember when I was in grade school I went to a presentation by a NASA astronaut who was a candidate for a lunar landing. It might have been Harrison Schmidt, but I am not sure. This was several years before any actual lunar flights.

    Anyway, many in the audience wanted to know what the astronauts thought about the current Surveyor program, which had suffered setbacks in its attempts to land on the moon and assess the composition of the lunar soil.

    To the obvious dismay of his accompanying NASA “handler”, the astronaut remarked that the main concern among the astronaut corps was that they might be hit by one of the Surveyor probes trying to land!

  • Jeff Wright

    SLS allows NTR–something Starship can’t with it’s propellant choice.

  • Gealon

    Starship can haul the parts into space, to build a much larger, NTR propelled vessel. It’s own propellant doesn’t come into the equation except in it’s inexpensive ability to get large payloads into space rapidly, something SLS will never be able to do.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Jeff, you said “SLS allows NTR–something Starship can’t with its propellant choice.”

    Can you please explain further? I assume NTR means Nuclear Thermal Rocket, but I don’t understand the logic.

  • Gealon

    He’s claiming that since SLS is built to use liquid Hydrogen, the most efficient fuel for an NTR, that it is a given the stack will eventually be equipped with one. Since Starship and Super Heavy use Methane, he’s excluding their ability to use an NTR for propulsion without even considering that an NTR could be developed to use Methane as a fuel.

    To which I say balderdash. With Starship’s payload capacity, you could easily build a ship in orbit that would blow any possible delta V an NTR equipped SLS could have, right out of the water. Add to it, the fact that a Starship would probably be mated to the front of it as living quarters or a lander and be immeasurably more comfortable to live in than what ever little tin can they can cram on the top of the SLS, and you have a clear winner. SLS is going nowhere and more people need to wake up to that fact.

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *