Donald Savage Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

September 16, 1994 (Phone: 202/358-1547) RELEASE: 94-155 NASA BEGINS RESTRUCTURING EXPLORER PROGRAM AND FUSE MISSION NASA's Explorer program and the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer mission will be restructured to enable funding for more frequent, smaller Explorer missions. "As part of the restructuring effort, we made a difficult decision not to fly the Far Ultraviolet Spectrocopic Explorer (FUSE) mission as it is currently baselined, but to redesign it and bring down its cost," Dr. Wesley T. Huntress Jr., NASA's Associate Administrator of Space Science, said at a meeting of the Space Science Advisory Committee held this week in Washington, D.C. Huntress asked the committee to provide guidance and suggestions to NASA on restructuring the Explorer program. Huntress said the restructuring was due to a lack of funds to start new Explorer missions before the year 2000, when FUSE was to launch. In 1990, when two Delta-class Explorer missions were approved for definition studies, including FUSE, the agency anticipated a growing space science budget throughout this decade, he said. The plans at that time called both for relatively expensive high-priority missions such as FUSE and other new missions to be started in the late 1990s. The assumptions for a growing budget changed shortly afterwards, however, and the agency now anticipates a relatively flat space science budget for the foreseeable future. Several space science missions underwent extensive restructuring efforts, successfully bringing down costs while preserving critical science. Huntress said the agency also would have to restructure the Explorer program to meet the astrophysics and space physics communities' desire for more frequent mission opportunities.

"By restructuring the Explorer program we can start a new program of medium explorers (MIDEX) with a one-per-year flight rate much sooner than we had planned, beginning with an announcement of opportunity next year," Huntress continued. "The tremendous amount of science we would gain with this approach by flying more frequent missions makes a great deal of sense for the entire space science program." Over the next three months, the FUSE Principal Investigator, Warren Moos of the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, will review options to restructure FUSE from a Delta-class mission into a smaller, less expensive MIDEX mission and present a proposal to NASA. The FUSE mission was designed to study the origin and evolution of the lightest elements -- hydrogen and deuterium -created shortly after the Big Bang, and the forces and processes involved in the evolution of galaxies, stars and planetary systems. The far ultraviolet region of the spectrum can only be observed outside the Earth's atmosphere. The Explorer program is managed by the Explorer Project Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., for the Office of Space Science in Washington, D.C. - end NASA press releases and other information are available automatically by sending an Internet electronic mail message to domo@hq.nasa.gov. In the body of the message (not the subject line) users should type the words "subscribe press-release" (no quotes). The system will reply with a confirmation via E-mail of each subscription. A second automatic message will include additional information on the service. Questions should be directed to (202) 358-4043.