NASA Cancels Astrometry Mission
Citing budget problems and setbacks in the production of suitable CCDs, NASA has withdrawn its support of the Full-Sky Astrometric Mapping Explorer mission, a collaborative effort of the US Naval Observatory, Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Advanced Technology Center, Naval Research Laboratory and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. The mission's orbiting telescope, which had been slated to launch in 2004, would have surveyed approximately 40 million stars within 8100 light-years of the solar system for studies of stellar evolution and the distribution of dark matter in the galaxy and for the calibration of distances to Cepheid variables.
In a letter to the principal investigator on the project, the space agency noted that the mission's estimated budget had grown from $180 million to $220 million. NASA also noted that Scientific Imaging Technologies Inc. of Tigard, Ore., the company that had been contracted to supply the 2048 x 4096 CCD detectors for the satellite, was experiencing difficulties satisfying the requirements of the order.
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