NASA has canceled its remote-sensing Clark satellite, citing cost overruns and launch schedule delays. The long-expected decision, announced today, is a setback for NASA's new emphasis on fast and cheap scientific missions.
Designed to observe Earth's surface and the sun, Clark was originally slated for launch in the summer of 1996. By January of this year, however, an internal NASA team had uncovered a host of problems--including poor management and cost overruns that would increase the price tag by at least 20%--and recommended that NASA Administrator Dan Goldin ditch the mission (Science, 16 January, p. 318). Software problems, a leaky battery, and difficulties with the launch vehicle also worried the NASA group.
Clark was originally planned as a companion to a similar satellite called Lewis, but Lewis also never made it into orbit. It failed soon after launch last August. Some of Clark's instruments may yet survive it, however. An advanced x-ray spectrometer that would have flown on Clark to observe solar flares, for example, might ride on the space shuttle or as part of a joint U.S.-Argentinean mission to be launched after 2000.