Pluto-Kuiper Express mission scuttled

PKEAfter four years of ballooning costs and launch weight, NASA brings work on the proposed Pluto-Kuiper Express mission to a stop, citing cost overruns and angering planetary scientists. The scientific community protests that, if a mission is not launched to reach Pluto by the year 2020, the tiny planet’s atmosphere will undergo a kind of reverse sublimation process, transitioning from a gas to a solid that rains down to Pluto’s surface. But with mission plans calling for a half-billion-dollar mission (originally budgeted for only $350 million), NASA pulls the plug, announcing that it will solicit new mission designs and plans from scientists around the world, even as advocates for the Pluto-Kuiper Express mission rally around the cancelled proposal.