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Science Conceded to War Economy: NASA Shutting Down Chandra X-Ray Telescope

April 14, 2024 (EIRNS)—NASA’s 2025 White House budget proposal represents a 2% budget increase, yet after inflation that would be the equivalent of a $2 billion budget cut, according to the Washington Post. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has already cut 8% of its workforce. One of NASA’s most successful programs in history is the 25-year-old satellite, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. In 2015 Chandra captured a black hole consuming a star, and in November it discovered the oldest black hole ever detected. Its X-ray vision can produce images of objects from deep space that the Webb telescope can’t even detect. Its only technical problem is that after 25 years in orbit, its shiny reflective insulation is tarnished and now requires extra precautions from overheating.

Chandra has been a reliable workhorse for NASA and is credited with an impressive list of discoveries, yet it does not have “celebrity status” since it produces images that are less “poster-worthy” than those from the Webb or Hubble telescopes. The workload demand continues to be five times greater than the supply in terms of astrophysicists requesting the focusing of Chandra on a particular space phenomena. NASA spent $2.2 billion to launch Chandra and it would be silly not to continue to reap the benefits.

In the plan for NASA’s budget the White House avoids any use of the term “elimination” of Chandra, but rather describes the “orderly mission draw-down to minimal operations.” There are other X-ray observatories in the world, but none can match the Chandra. Science will take a great hit and the United States will cede its leadership in the field.