Budget 2012: NASA
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.
| February 14, 2011; 5:45 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency
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