When President George W. Bush declared in January that NASA would set its sights on returning astronauts to the moon by 2020, scientists quickly lined up on opposing sides. Although Bush's plan promises more funding for researchers studying the moon and Mars, other branches of space science are already feeling the pinch. The most prominent loser by far is the Hubble Space Telescope. Just two days after the president presented his initiative, NASA announced that it would cancel a shuttle flight to install new gyroscopes, batteries and scientific instruments to the Hubble. If NASA does not reverse the decision, its premier space observatory will cease operating when its current equipment fails in the next few years.
The problem arises from the Bush administration's strategy of financing the moon effort through the early retirement of the space shuttle. During the phaseout, targeted for 2010, much of the shuttle's $4-billion annual budget will be shifted toward designing a crew exploration vehicle that could take astronauts to the moon. In the meantime, shuttle missions will focus on assembling the International Space Station.