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Pluto mission not dead yet
Posted: Sat, Mar 3, 2001, 11:00 AM ET (1600 GMT)
Pluto-Kuiper Express spacecraft illustration NASA will comply with a Congressional request to keep open a competition for a Pluto mission despite a lack of funding for such a mission in the President's 2002 budget proposal. NASA informed Congress on Wednesday that it planned to close an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) requesting proposals for a Pluto flyby mission after President Bush's budget summary zeroed out funding for the Pluto/Kuiper Express mission. However, the staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee asked NASA to keep the AO open while it waits to take action on the budget later this year. NASA officials told SPACE.com and Spaceflight Now on Friday that they will comply with the request, although they advised that "the Administration does not support this course of action." What NASA will do with the proposals after the March 21 deadline is also uncertain: the agency had planned to select some proposals for additional study and choose a winner, if any, in August, but now say they will need several days to determine what they will do under the current circumstances. Organizations like The Planetary Society and grassroots movements like PlutoMission.Com have opposed plans to kill the mission, and have asked people to contact members of Congress to express their support for continued funding for the mission.
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