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NASA selects Pluto mission design
Posted: Thu, Nov 29, 2001, 9:39 PM ET (0239 GMT)
Pluto-Kuiper Express spacecraft illustration NASA announced late Thursday that it has selected a design for a spacecraft mission to Pluto for further study, but cautioned that funding for such a mission is not guaranteed. NASA selected the "New Horizons" mission proposal, written by a team led by longtime Pluto mission advocate Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute. New Horizons was one of two proposals selected by NASA earlier this year for a three-month "Phase A" mission study. The proposal will now undergo a "Phase B" study to ensure the risks associated with the mission, including the ability to obtain a RTG to power the spacecraft, can be overcome. Also, NASA said that additional funding for the mission must be available for the program to proceed beyond Phase B. Congress appropriated $30 million for fiscal year 2002 for a Pluto mission, over objections of the Bush Administration, who wanted to kill the mission, but there is no funding for the mission in proposed budgets in later years.
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