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Senate partially funds Pluto mission
Posted: Tue, Jul 24, 2001, 4:15 PM ET (2015 GMT)
Pluto-Kuiper Express spacecraft illustration The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a NASA budget bill late last week that includes a small wedge of funding for a mission to Pluto. The committee chose to transfer $25 million to the Pluto Kuiper Belt (PKB) mission project from a program that would have spent the money developing advanced propulsion technologies for a later "sprint" mission to Pluto. That technology program was criticized by scientists who argued that the money was better spent on a near-term Pluto mission. The $25 million is only a small fraction of the overall cost of a PKB mission, which NASA capped at $500 million in a recent request for mission proposals, and those involved with the program are uncertain that $25 million will be enough to fully fund project development in fiscal year 2002. The committee's bill, yet to be approved by the full Senate, will have to be reconciled with the House of Representatives version that includes no funding for a Pluto mission. The Pluto mission funding is a small part of the overall NASA budget approved by the Senate, which, at $14.56 billion, is more than $400 million less than the $15 billion the House Appropriations Committee approved earlier this month. Spending on a space station crew return vehicle — included in the House but not the Senate versions of the bill — the major difference between the two.
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