NASA And The Budget – Updated

In a budget submitted to Congress on Monday, President Bush proposes an (approximately) 1% increase for NASA. Phil Plait:

President Bush submitted his budget request today, and while you all know how I feel about him, I have to admit this looks pretty good for NASA. Of course, Congress has to screw around with the budget too, but if they go along with this NASA will actually be able to get something done.

Well, that would be nice (especially for those of use who derive incomes from NASA’s doings). But others have their opinions. From NASA Watch:

In reacting to NASA’s new budget, House Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon said:

“At first blush it unfortunately appears to be a “business-as-usual” budget that does little to address the significant challenges NASA is facing. In short, it continues the Administration’s practice of underfunding the agency relative to the missions the agency has been asked to undertake. Thus, NASA’s aeronautics program is kept on a downward spiral despite congressional actions to the contrary, the agency’s technology programs remain in an anemic condition, and its science programs face an uncertain future as funds are shuffled from one science account to the next in order to free up funds for proposed new initiatives.”

Ouch. And there’s more from Space Review.

SILVER SPRING, MD – With today’s unveiling of President’s Bush’s final budget, the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE) expressed grave disappointed with the failure of the White House to match its rhetoric to the Office and Management and Budget’s (OMB) fiscal plan. This no truer than at NASA when comparing the stated grand Vision for Space Exploration with the Administration’s proposed meager NASA budget that barely keeps up with inflation.

The IFPTE is not an organization without an agenda. As for Rep. Bart Gordon, the lack of direction shown by NASA since the end of Apollo can be traced directly to Congress and it’s micro-manageing of the agency. More of the same, as indicated by the congressman, will not solve that particular problem. Still, it gives one pause.

My take is that this is not a particularly bad budget for NASA in particular, and for space exploration in general. It all depends on NASA disputed Vision for Space (on which, more here). With an infinite budget, NASA could only do little more than it’s doing now, because it still needs technology, manpower and brains. Without clear direction, all the budget in the world will do less good for space exploration than NASA is accomplishishing now.

And what would they be doing with this (somewhat) increased budget, assuming that Congress acually allocates that money? From New Scientist:

Some highlights of the budget include:• $2.6 billion to purchase crew and cargo flights to the space station during the gap between the retirement of the space shuttle in 2010 and the first planned flights of NASA’s Orion spacecraft in 2015

• a commitment to a major mission to the outer planets in the $3 billion price range

• three new robotic missions to the Moon

• a boost for Earth science, including money for two new space missions

• cancellation of the “New Millennium” programme, which tested advanced technologies for use in space missions

• a new small space mission to study extrasolar planets

Update: Two typos corrected (sorry!) and the link to New Scientist, was added.

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