News of the WeekAstronomy

Who Will Pay for China's Planned X-ray Satellite?

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Science  25 Sep 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5948, pp. 1613
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_1613

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After nearly 2 decades of development, China's first space-based observatory may never get off the ground. The Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT) mission is scheduled for launch next year, but with the clock running down, Science has learned that no government agency has stepped forward to pay the estimated $146 million to build the satellite—putting the mission in jeopardy. To avert that possibility, supporters are appealing to the highest level of government: In May, 15 academicians petitioned the State Council, and last month, the most senior signatory, 95-year-old nuclear physicist He Zehui, sent a personal note to Premier Wen Jiabao, who heads China's cabinet. Astrophysicists are hoping for an 11th hour intervention from Wen to save HXMT.