Voyager’s epic journey may end

Historic space mission could lose its funding under Bush initiative

In a cost-cutting move prompted by President Bush’s moon-Mars initiative, NASA could summarily put an end to Voyager, the legendary 28-year mission that has sent a spacecraft farther from Earth than any object ever made by humans.

The probable October shutdown of a program that currently costs $4.2 million a year has caused dismay among scientists who have shepherded the twin Voyager probes on flybys of four planets and an epic journey to the frontier of interstellar space.

“There are no other plans to reach the edge of the solar system,” said Stamatios Krimigis, a lead investigator for the project since before its launch in 1977. “Now we’re getting all this new information, and here comes NASA saying, ‘We want to pull the plug.’ ”

NASA officials said the possibility of cutting Voyager and several other long-running missions in the Earth-Sun Exploration Division arose in February, when the Bush administration proposed slashing the division’s 2006 budget from $75 million to $53 million.

The administration is rearranging NASA’s finances to finance Bush’s “Vision for Space Exploration” to the moon and eventually Mars. Cuts in aeronautics funding prompted by the initiative have provoked an uproar at some NASA centers.”

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