NASA kills GEMS X-ray telescope, blames project's cost (Update)

Jun 07, 2012 by MARCIA DUNN

(AP) — NASA killed a new X-ray telescope mission on Thursday, two years before its planned launch.

The Gravity and Extreme Magnetism Small Explorer mission, or GEMS for short, was supposed to blast off in 2014 to study black holes and neutron stars. But external reviews found the project would likely come in considerably over budget.

GEMS was selected under a strict cost cap, NASA officials said, unlike the price-busting James Webb Space Telescope to be launched in 2018.

"That cost cap is a very important aspect of the development of the project," said Paul Hertz, director of NASA's astrophysics division. Webb "is different."

Billions over budget and years behind schedule, Webb is NASA's largest science project and considered the successor to Hubble Space Telescope. Both Webb and GEMS are managed by Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Adjusted for inflation, GEMS was supposed to hold at $119 million, not counting the rocket, but independent reviews estimated the final cost at 20 percent to 30 percent above that, Hertz said.

Hertz said in a news conference that the technology needed for the instrument took longer to develop than expected, and that drove up the price.

It will cost NASA an estimated $13 million to close out the project, Hertz said. After adding in the money already spent on GEMS, the final tab for the space agency will be $50 million.

No rocket had yet been purchased for the mission, and the telescope itself had not yet been built.

A number of existing observatories can address some of GEMS' science questions, Hertz said, including the NuStar telescope due to lift off next week from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific.

Explore further: How far are the planets from the Sun?

3.7 /5 (3 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

GEMS mission to explore the polarized universe

Aug 04, 2009

An exciting new astrophysics mission led by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will provide a revolutionary window into the universe. Named the Gravity and Extreme Magnetism Small Explorer ...

NASA boosts Webb telescope cost to $8.7 billion

Aug 25, 2011

NASA has boosted its cost estimate of a major telescope project to 8.7 billion dollars, even as lawmakers have threatened to slash the space agency's budget, a spokesman said Wednesday.

NuSTAR mated to its rocket

Feb 20, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) is being mated, or attached, to its Pegasus XL rocket today at Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California.

Recommended for you

First-of-its-kind NASA space-weather project

6 hours ago

A NASA scientist is launching a one-to-two-year pilot project this summer that takes advantage of U.S. high-voltage power transmission lines to measure a phenomenon that has caused widespread power outages ...

How many moons does Venus have?

13 hours ago

There are dozens upon dozens of moons in the Solar System, ranging from airless worlds like Earth's Moon to those with an atmosphere (most notably, Saturn's Titan). Jupiter and Saturn have many moons each, ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (1) Jun 08, 2012
This cancellation is just the tip of the iceberg.

Thanks to 40 years of Republican Borrow and Spend Treason, America is bankrupt.

I say take the money from the U.S. military to complete the project.

More news stories

First-of-its-kind NASA space-weather project

A NASA scientist is launching a one-to-two-year pilot project this summer that takes advantage of U.S. high-voltage power transmission lines to measure a phenomenon that has caused widespread power outages ...

How many moons does Venus have?

There are dozens upon dozens of moons in the Solar System, ranging from airless worlds like Earth's Moon to those with an atmosphere (most notably, Saturn's Titan). Jupiter and Saturn have many moons each, ...