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Posted at 5:45 PM ET, 02/14/2011

Budget 2012: NASA

By Marc Kaufman

The president's proposed 2012 budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is $18.7 billion, almost the same as the appropriated current budget. While President Obama's 2011 budget called for an increase in NASA spending of more than $6 million over the next five years, the current proposal is for a flat budget over the same time period.

Continuing a debate over the agency's direction begun last year, the budget calls for an increase in spending to help commercial rocket and space companies develop transport to the International Space Station, and cancels the Bush administration program to build a more conventional new system -- which is still being funded under the 2010 continuing resolution.

The budget asks for $850 million for development of commercial cargo and crew transport to the space station, compared with about $500 million in the 2011 NASA authorization bill.

The plan calls for a $1.8 billion reduction in "space operations," which reflects an end to the space shuttle program. More than $1 billion of those savings would be directed to "space research and technology" for the human space program, and almost $500 million additional would go to the science division. Funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope which was found last year to be well over budget and behind schedule, will be a reduced $325 million. The budget also provides reduced funding to support the administration's plan to expand satellite data collecting about the Earth and its changing climate.

The budget is significantly greater than that proposed by Republican members of Congress, which would cut back spending to 2008 levels. In a separate analysis, NASA projected that approval of the Republican budget would mean the scrapping of the Webb telescope (which has already cost more than $3 billion) and would eliminate or delay many of Obama's earth sciences initiatives. In addition, the Republican budget would require layoffs of more than 75,000 contractors by this September, the agency reported.

President Obama's proposed budget also makes explicit that the agency is focusing its longer-range planning on traveling to an asteroid, rather than to the moon. It adds funds as well to make use of the International Space Station more available to scientists and their institutions. The $100 billion space station, which has been formally designated as a national laboratory, would be funded through 2020 under the Obama budget. Earlier budgets during the Bush administration gave it funding only through 2015.

View agency budget document (Annotated PDF)

Budget 2012 analysis: Full list of agencies

By Marc Kaufman  | February 14, 2011; 5:45 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Next: Budget 2012: NIH and CDC


I think NASA budget should include more investment on innovative technology towards interstellar space travel to save mankind from a suddenly annihilation.

Posted by: rbrtwjohnson | February 17, 2011 5:34 PM | Report abuse

If President Bush had gone back oh his word the press would jump all over him. So Obama has said he wants to "invest" in the NASA and give it 6 billion dollars and low and behold he doesn't? Why is that a shock? He's a liar. He probably wasn't even born in the US but the press will protect him. As for NASA. Get rid of it. We're going to the Moon and then we're not going to the moon. Let the private sector go back to the moon and when they do they can take Obama with them.

Posted by: dwroberts_03860 | February 16, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Though others may not have been appreciative of this article (i.e. the comment regarding quality of the reporting about NASA being funded at FY2010 levels), I was elated to finally find an article mentioning what has become a Constellation boondoggle. Before the article was posted, I had begun to think that only the Department of Defense would receive criticism and/or attention from the Post. Constellation, a previously cancelled human spaceflight (HSF) rocket once envisioned to launch astronauts on an expensive voyage to Mars, managed to receive funding under the continuing resolution. Like DoD, it seems that Congress' actions (of lack thereof) have jeopardized other programs in our Federal organizations. Every dollar spent on Constellation and on programs that SecDef has tried to cancel (but that Congress either directly or indirectly continues to authorize money for) diverts funding from other, more-important NASA and DoD programs that need it. We don't need a human spaceflight "race" with China. We went to our moon first. China owns a large part of our Federal (treasury) debt. Maybe it's time to let China get into the "red" a little through its ambitious Mars plans, eh? Letting the Soviet Union spent itself into non-existence worked for the United States. Do we really want China to turn the table by getting the U.S. to spend itself into oblivion?

Posted by: 1steward | February 15, 2011 5:18 AM | Report abuse

I see that this was posted before the NASA budget press conference, but it is still hard to accept some of the errors. NASA is operating on a FY2011 continuing resolution, not the FY2010 appropriation. NASA has adopted a capability-based approach to exploration, with no specific target chosen. So the statement that an asteroid mission is preferred over a Moon mission reflects Obama's April 15, 2010 speech but not this budget. Bush's Constellation program was canceled in last year's budget proposal, not this one. The technology budget is funded on its own, not by shifting funds from space operations, and is relevant to both human and robotic programs. And so on. This is not high quality reporting - I hope the print edition can do better.

Posted by: jml3 | February 14, 2011 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I understand that budget cuts are inevitable; but, like the President stated, let's not do this on the backs of the American People. Since I picked up my first encyclopedia, I have always wanted to work, explore, and contribute to space exploration. As a veteran, I am a constant supporter of our President, our government , and our country. I just wanted to let everyone know that these cuts affect everyone - in one way or another. My heart goes out to the Americans who are losing their jobs because of budget cuts.

Posted by: bigcalculus | February 14, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

NASA's budget is a mess like the rest of the budget.

Posted by: dkeller1 | February 14, 2011 5:01 PM | Report abuse

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