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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Budgets Imperil Environmental Satellites

By Matt Crenson
AP National Writer

"We may be losing something here, something that is good for all of us," said Francisco P.J. Valero, an atmospheric scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

NASA officials say that tight budgets tie their hands, forcing them to cut all but the most vital programs. The agency's proposed 2007 budget request contains $2.2 billion for satellites that observe the Earth and sun, compared to $6.2 billion for operating the space shuttle and International Space Station and $4 billion for developing future missions to the moon and Mars.

"We simply cannot afford all of the missions that our scientific constituencies would like us to sponsor," NASA administrator Michael Griffin told members of Congress when he testified before the House Science Committee Feb. 16.

Griffin is faced with the difficult task of balancing the space agency's science and aeronautics programs against the cost of operating the space station and shuttle, while simultaneously planning the future of human space flight.

"I truly wish that it could be otherwise, but there is only so much money," Griffin said in his congressional testimony. "We must set priorities."

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