Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE) To Be Shut Down

By Keith Cowing
November 18, 2000
Filed under ,

EUVEAfter more than 8 years of non-stop flawless performance, NASA has decided to shut down the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE). The reason? As NASA sees it, money is short, the EUVE has more than accomplished its stated goals, and NASA needs to direct its financial resources to other projects. The EUVE is now in a “minimal observation mode” and will be turned off in January 2001.

According to NASA “Eventually, aerodynamic drag on the 7,000-pound spacecraft will cause it to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere. Current predictions put EUVE’s reentry sometime in late 2001
or early 2002. Unlike the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, which had a propulsion system to allow for its controlled reentry earlier this year, EUVE has no method for directing its impact to a specific entry point. However, extensive analysis by NASA reveals the amount of debris likely to survive reentry is extremely small and will likely fall harmlessly into the ocean.”

According to the Center for EUV Astrophysics at the University of California, Berkeley “The Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE) is a NASA-funded astronomy mission operating in the relatively unexplored extreme ultraviolet (70-760 Å) band. The science payload consists of three grazing incidence scanning telescopes and an extreme ultraviolet (EUV) spectrometer/deep survey instrument. The EUVE mission, which launched on June 7, 1992 on a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral, is the culmination of nearly thirty years of effort at the University of California at Berkeley to create the field of EUV Astronomy. EUVE opens up this last unexplored spectral window in astrophysics.”

News of the looming termination spread swiftly through the scientific community. Despite Internet publicity, letters and email to Congress and NASA, and other efforts to get NASA to reconsider, the decision remained unchanged.

In informing the EUVE team of NASA Headquarters’ decision, Guenter Riegler said that the Senior Review 2000 of Mission Operations and Data Analysis (MO&DA) Programs in the Astronomical Search for Origins (ASO) and the
Structure and Evolution of the Universe (SEU) Themes
“gave the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE) mission a low ranking on a ‘science per dollar’ basis. Because of this ranking, this year’s Senior
Review panel concurred with the Senior Review 1998 and recommended termination of the mission at the end of fiscal year 2000. Primarily because of this science ranking, and secondarily because of the severe budget constraints mentioned in the previous paragraph, I endorse this recommendation…”

What is especially unfortunate about this is the fact that EUVE the spacecraft is still 100% operational and the EUVE program was the model of efficiency costing only $1 million per year to operate. Both Congress and the National Academy of Sciences have expressed concern over what they see as a trend developing at NASA – one where productive missions – and the data they generate – are underfunded while new, and possibly more publicly appealing missions, get priority funding.

EUVE is not the only mission to be affected this year – nor are only small, inexpensive missions being affected by budget pressures. The small nanorover for the MUSES CN mission was recently cancelled due to mounting costs. Receiving more attention was the almost-cancellation of the Pluto-Kuiper Express mission – also due to mounting costs. This mission is now on hold while cheaper means are found to accomplish its goals. Meanwhile, the Europa Orbiter mission (with its popular astrobiology themes), which shares its development with PKE, is being given additional resources. Additional budget pressures arose when NASA decided to send one, and then two rovers to Mars in 2003 – and had to look across the agency for the money to make this happen.

Mission termination not withstanding, the EUVE Team seems resolved to enjoy their satellite – and their collective accomplishments – until the very end. As such, they are already seeking ideas for an EUVE End-of-mission party.

Related links

  • Extreme Ultraviolet Light Mission Comes To An End, 17 November 2000, NASA PAO

  • Save EUVE

  • Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer Public Outreach, UC Berkeley

  • End of EUVE Announcement, 31 October 2000

  • Save EUVE Update 26 September 2000

  • Save EUVE Status Report 15 August 2000

  • Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE) Funding to End, 3 August 2000, NASA HQ

    Background Information

  • 8 June 2000: Rep. Nethercutt Report Language for FY01 VA-HUD Appropriations Act

    “The Research and Data Analysis program contributes directly to NASA’s
    mandate to engage in effective science and provides the clear scientific
    goals and questions which define our nation’s space exploration missions.
    The Committee is concerned that shortfalls in R&DA degrade the return from
    more visible and expensive programs, while diminishing science capability
    and flexibility. Program support costs and internal “taxes” are also
    eroding the very marginal increases in these accounts. “

  • Executive Summary, “Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA’s Science Programs”, 1998 report by the National Research Council’s Space Studies Board

    “Although there has been relatively widespread agreement about the importance of R&DA within the scientific community, senior agency managers and key decision
    makers outside NASA often have found the roles filled by these programs difficult to articulate and to prioritize. The diversity and “softness” of R&DA activities compared to
    the sharp outlines of specific spaceflight missions have made R&DA particularly vulnerable during times of constrained resources and changing institutional structure and
    strategy. With the emergence of NASA’s emphasis on streamlining missions, accelerating development cycles, accentuating innovation, and reducing costs-the “smaller, faster,
    cheaper” approach-the roles of R&DA in framing scientific issues, developing the necessary new technologies for future missions, and mining the data from extant missions
    to produce new scientific knowledge have become even more critical.”

  • SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.