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Crumbling labs could clip NASA's wings

Tue, 05/11/2010 - 8:26am
New Scientist

NASA dreams of flying astronauts to Mars, but crumbling facilities here on Earth could clip the agency's wings.

Under President Obama's plan, NASA is expected to redouble its efforts to develop breakthrough technologies for space flight.

However years of neglect have left many NASA labs that might be used for such research in rough shape, says a report from the US National Academies of Science.

Repairs and upgrades are essential for ageing items like wind tunnels and computers, the report says. Some laboratories do not even have adequate electricity or heat.

Further delays to repairs will only create new problems. For example, the agency's inability to find $15 million to install a backup power supply could damage an expensive supercomputer if the power failed.

Clearing the overall repair and maintenance backlog would cost $2.46 billion, according to the report.

"Our committee was alarmed at how big the deferred maintenance bill has grown," says panel co-chair John T Best of the Arnold Engineering Development Center in Arnold, Tennessee.

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