Where does the money go for extending a space probe's mission?

From a NYT article on the spacecraft’s 2.5 year mission extension.

So where does this 9 mil. go? I’m sure it’s justified–I’m just curious what the actual new expenses are, seeing as how the thing is already UP there.

  • mission control operators’ salaries?
  • running computers?
  • renting time on high-power radio antennas?

My WAG is that the extra money would be used for the things you mentioned. For the workers salary yeah it was already paid for, but by keeping them working on the project they might have to hire new people for other projects. You would still have to pay for the computers/people/telescopes to analyze/collect the data. Also, I suppose there are other things that they pay for that we have no clue about.

Yup, no WAGS about it. In order to keep a mission running they need: people to design science sequences, people to translate those sequences into spacecraftese, uplink time on the Deep Space Network to send the instructions to the spacecraft, downlink time on DSN to receive the data, and then they may or may not be paying people to analyze the data, and that’s no small potatoes.

However, I don’t think (I may be wrong) that the DSN time is not paid out of the project budget. NASA runs DSN, and it may have its own operating budget that’s independent of individual missions. Spacecraft missions may just have to propose for uplink and downlink time. (They definitely do radio astronomy with the DSN, too, and like almost every other telescope, it’s free to use if your proposal is accepted.)

Gack! Double negative! To clarify: I do not think that missions have to pay for DSN time.