NASA will receive a 3.1% increase over last year's budget request, which is not terrible, it could be worse, of course, but it's not good, especially considering how NASA got the shaft in the continuing resolution. NSF, by contrast, got a 7% increase. Ever since the President skipped over NASA in his ACI (American Competitiveness Initiative), NASA has become something of the redheaded stepchild of science when it comes to funding.
In a press release, the chair of the House Science and Technology Committee, Bart Gordon said:
"Once again, NASA’s budget request is not sufficient to do all the agency is being asked to do. Exploration and human space flight are important long-term missions for the agency and our country. So are NASA’s core activities in science and aeronautics. Yet this budget request and its five-year funding plan do not provide the funding needed to ensure the future health of any of these initiatives. I fear we may be heading for a train wreck if no corrective actions are taken."
On the other side of the Hill, Sen Mikulski was also disappointed:
“The space program needs presidential leadership, and we expect to see that leadership in the budget. Unfortunately, we don’t see it in this year’s budget yet again. I fought to have NASA included in the American Competitiveness Initiative, but the White House refused. NASA’s work should be the hallmark of any national program to promote America’s competitiveness,” said Senator Mikulski. “I will keep fighting for a balanced space program – science, exploration and aeronautics – all leading the way for innovation and discovery.”
Times are tough, and not just for science; exploration, aeronautics, education, everything NASA does is getting squeezed.
A few good things came out of the budget announcement though:
* GPM (Global Precipitation Measurement mission) is moving forward, thank goodness, because the TRMM satellite that it's replacing is running out of fuel, and those measurements are important for things like accurate hurricane predictions.
* The next-generation LANDSAT is also moving forward after a lot of fits and starts, though to slowly to avoid a data gap, but still.
* A new funding line for Lunar Science is finally being started - this was something I tried to push for when I was on the Hill, but I could never get any traction, everyone said it was too early, we didn't need it yet, but I guess they finally felt it was time.
* For those who care, the SOFIA mission has been reinstated and is back on track.
* The budget runout allows for increases to the previously estimated costs for purchasing commercial cargo and crew services to support the ISS, which I take as a sign that they are really serious about pursuing COTS, which is kinda exciting in the big picture. I really hope that some viable commercial options materialize.
* Finally, one of the best things to come out of yesterday's announcement, in my humble opinion anyway, it sounds like they are going to readjust some of the Full Cost Accounting procedures. - "Our full cost accounting practices created a complex allocation of overhead costs which disproportionately inflated the operating costs for our research centers." - ya think?
So that's a quick look from my perspective, I haven't really had time to comb though the nitty gritty numbers yet. What do you think? Is NASA going to muddle through, or is the "train wreck" just ahead?