President Obama may have announced that the “age of austerity” is over for a lot of domestic spending programs, but according to a March 3, 2014 story in Aviation Week, stinginess is still the guiding principle insofar as the 2015 budget proposal for NASA is concerned. It is a largely status quo budget, at $17.5 billion, slightly below what was finally approved for 2014.
The budget will contain some “pre-formulation” work on a mission that would orbit Jupiter, flying closely by its icy moon Europa, examining water geysers that were recently detecting shooting out of its south pole. There will also be a space telescope that will attempt to detect the effects of dark energy on the observable universe.
“Also slated for “pre-formulation” study is the proposed Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope/Astrophysics Focused Telescope Asset mission, which would use gravitational lensing and other advanced techniques to study dark energy, and to continue the search for exoplanets in our Milky Way galaxy by monitoring a large star sample in the galaxy’s center for the faint dimming caused by intervening solar systems. Like the Webb telescope, the proposed mission would be managed by Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and is likely to enjoy support from Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).”
A Europa mission has been mulled by NASA and the Congress for the past several years. Europa, a world encased in a layer of ice, is thought to have an ocean underneath that may contain life. A space prove flying through the water geysers might be able to detect signatures of the life, When such a mission would take place is still something that is very much a matter for future discussion, however.