In order to save 50¢ per taxpayer, George W. Bush has cut NASA’s budget so that they can’t afford to send an unmanned mission to Pluto.
The problem is, the last viable launch window to get a gravitational slingshot to Pluto is in 2006. If we don’t hit that window, Pluto will move too far away from the sun, and its atmosphere will freeze and precipitate out onto the planet’s surface. In addition, about half the planet will be too dark for any kind of photographic sensors to scan. Which means if we don’t run a mission now, we won’t get to see Pluto until some time after the year 2300.
Speaking as someone who was seriously counting on being able to work on a moonbase by now, this bugs the hell out of me. I don’t expect science to be a high priority with Republicans, but this kind of shortsighted penny-pinching really grates.
There’s a chance Congress and the House will be able to restore the Pluto mission budget. Let’s hope.