Canceling NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder: The White House's Increasingly Nearsighted "Vision" For Space Exploration

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Editor's note: According to NASA's FY 2007 budget documentation "The Terrestrial Planet Finding project (TPF) has been deferred indefinitely." In other words, it is dead. NASA is just afraid to say so.

In a document titled "A Renewed Spirit of Discovery" released on the same day that President Bush announced his Vision for Space Exploration in January 2004, the White House directed NASA, as part of the new "Vison for Space Exploration" to "Conduct advanced telescope searches for Earth-like planets and habitable environments around other stars".

In a statement released today, the Planetary Society expressed their strong concerns about the cancellation of this and other space science missions. Planetary Society President, Wesley T. Huntress, Jr., observed that this action amounts to "essentially transferring funds from a popular and highly productive program into one [Space Shuttle] scheduled for termination."

According to President Bush, as he unveiled his Vision for Space Exploration: "We do not know where this journey will end, yet we know this: human beings are headed into the cosmos."

If there was one singular mission that embodied humanity casting its collective "vision" outward "into the cosmos" so as to look for places to "head" toward, it was the Terrestrial Planet Finder.

This is a bad decision. A really bad one. In making it, one has to question whether this White House really meant what it said 2 years ago when it raised everyone's expectations, invoking an expansion "into the cosmos" in so doing.

With every passing year this "vision" is becoming increasing nearsighted.


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