Tuesday, February 14, 2012

NASA Proposed FY13 Budget Released

Click the arrow to watch NASA's proposed budget promotional video.

The Obama administration released Monday the proposed Fiscal Year 2013 NASA budget.

The details are on NASA's budget web site.

Click here for the complete NASA budget estimates.

The bottom-line total for NASA's proposed budget is $17.71 billion, a very slight decrease from the estimated FY12 final of $17.77 billion. That's a reduction of about 0.3% from FY12.

Nonetheless, porkers are lining up to decry the budget proposal as a disaster.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is a patron of the Space Launch System, issued a press release claiming that slight reductions to the budget for SLS and the Orion crew capsule would "slow the development of the SLS and the Orion crew vehicle, making it impossible for them to provide backup capability for supporting the space station."

No one seriously believes that the SLS will be used as a space taxi to the ISS. It was billed as a deep space exploration vehicle, although Congress still hasn't given it a mission or destination. The first crewed SLS test flight isn't scheduled until 2021 — the year after the agreements expire among the nations to jointly operate the ISS. Using the SLS as a space taxi would be like using the Saturn V moon rocket for crew rotations to Skylab in the 1970s instead of the Saturn 1B.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who represents the district where the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is located, is pitching a fit over a reduction in the budget for future robotic Mars programs. According to the Pasadena Star-News, Schiff called the proposed cut "devastating" and claimed the U.S. would be ceding its lead in space exploration. He did not say to whom that leadership would be ceded or how not sending more probes to Mars ten years from now would make America a second-rate nation.

Former NASA chief technologist Bobby Braun, who left in September, sent out a Twitter message quoting a Planetary Society press release titled, "Science Pushed to the Brink: Proposed FY 2013 Budget Would Devastate Planetary Science in NASA". But if you do the math, the proposed planetary science budget for FY13 is $1.2 billion, down $301 million or about 20% from the current year's $1.5 billion. No other nation has probes going out into the solar system — Russia's recent attempt with the Phobos-Grunt failed miserably when the probe failed to achieve orbit and fell into the Pacific Ocean. And NASA's planetary science exploration is far more than just Mars probes; click here for a long list of its current missions.

Florida Today looked at how the budget proposal would affect Kennedy Space Center:

Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget would allocate slightly more than $500 million to continue transforming Kennedy Space Center into a 21st century launch complex to accommodate both the Mars mission and the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program, as well as other potential uses.

The proposal also sets up another confrontation with Congress over the commercial crew program. Last November, Congress cut the commercial crew budget from the $850 million requested by the Obama administration to only $406 million, despite warnings from NASA that the cut would extend until at least 2017 reliance upon the Russian Soyuz system for ISS access. The FY13 proposal asks for $830 million just to stay on the 2017 timeline.

But as I wrote on February 10, the White House budget proposal is largely meaningless, because the U.S. Constitution gives all budget control to Congress. The drama queens hyperventilating over their smaller slice of the pork will now turn towards the members of Congress, as they do every year, to pursue their share of taxpayer dollars. None of them will say a word about reducing the government's trillion-dollar annual deficits.

(Thanks for the Space Politics blog for references to several of yesterday's news articles.)

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