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Will NASA’s WFIRST still be funded as of the 2018 mid-term elections?

NASA plans to launch its Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) in the middle of the next decade. Per the agency, the purpose is “to settle essential questions in the areas of dark energy, exoplanets, and infrared astrophysics.” Among other things, the observatory will “have a field of view that is 100 times greater than the Hubble infrared instrument, capturing more of the sky with less observing time… [and] will measure light from a billion galaxies over the course of the mission lifetime… It also has instruments to find and take images of planets around other stars.”

But WFIRST is in trouble.

The Trump administration proposed a budget for Fiscal Year 2019 that would cancel the observatory, which (for technical reasons) would have required an increase in funding.

Prominent science journalist, Ethan Siegel (“Starts with a Bang”) has argued that this move would “permanently ruin NASA.” He writes “If WFIRST gets cancelled, it's a sign that even the most important NASA project, as determined by internal, external, and independent reviewers, is subject to political whims.”

Will WFIRST survive this attack?

For a positive resolution WFIRST must still be funded through 2019 at a level compatible with the mission's continuation, as of the 2018 midterm elections, via whatever budget is in place at that time. Resolution is negative if a budget passes in which WFIRST's 2019 funding is cut by more than 50% from the level requested by NASA as of early 2018 for the mission.


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