Senate boosts NASA budget

As you may have already read, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted Tuesday to increase NASA’s budget by about $200 million over the President’s request, for a total of $16.4 billion. However, the catch is that $800 million of that is in the form of emergency funding (and thus not subject to budget caps) devoted exclusively to shuttle return to flight work ($500 million) and a Hubble repair mission ($300 million). This leaves $15.6 billion for everything else, which is less than the Bush Administration requested. As a result, there are some cuts, particularly in the exploration vision: $160 million cut from the CEV, $50 million from the robotic lunar exploration program, $10 million from Centennial Challenges, and an unspecified amount from Project Prometheus. (Update: according to the committee’s report, Prometheus is fully funded, contrary to news reports that indicated it had been cut.) These cuts, though, are less severe than what House appropriators approved in July.

The emergency funding measure for shuttle and Hubble could prove to be a problem later in the appropriations process. From what I understand, the Office of Management and Budget doesn’t look favorably on such measures, raising the possibility of pressure from the administration to drop those measures. (The bill also includes $1.2 billion in “emergency” funds for veterans health care.) This concern was raised in the committee meetings, according to the Orlando Sentinel and Houston Chronicle, but the measure was approved. Assuming there aren’t significant changes in either the House or Senate versions when they take up the bills on the floor, it should make for an interesting conference…

11 comments to Senate boosts NASA budget

  • John Malkin

    The senate appropriations committee bill may include more money but it is harsher on NASA’s accounting and contact award practices. I think the bill is well balance and takes into account the recent audit report and changes with Shuttle and Hubble. A lot has happen since the house committee did their markup but they both support broader human space flight and science to support more than exploration.

  • Anonymous

    “but it is harsher on NASA’s accounting and contact award practices.”

    Sean O’Keefe was sent to NASA to fix these things. Are they not fixed?

  • Dogsbd

    They’re not fixed, but they’re in better shape than at any time in the last 10-15 years.

  • Ray

    According to the Senate committee report, Project Prometheus will be fully funded at $430M

  • Jeff Foust

    Thanks for the correction, Ray. The original post was based on news reports from the Chronicle and Sentinel, which both claimed Prometheus had been cut to some degree.

  • How much was the request for Centennial Challenges? Did they reduce the funding, or kill the program?

  • Mark Zinthefer

    $10 million from Centennial Challenges.

    Not too critical I think. That was only a small part of the prize money and I doubt they were going to be able to hand out every single award this year. I’ll be happy if they hand out a single award.

  • Anonymous

    “They’re not fixed, but they’re in better shape than at any time in the last 10-15 years.”

    But NASA continues to fail its independent audits. Where is the proof that they are in better shape now?

  • On an unrelated topic, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune of Florida is asking, “Should the United States continue to send people into space?”

    There’s an overview of space history, but it completely omits the concept of space colonization (or space settlement), which is usual for space newbies.

    “This question is part of our weekly debate. Read up on the issue. Then, pick a side by completing our poll and offering your comments. Results are printed in the newspaper.”

    (Registration is required to do the poll and comments.)

  • Anonymous

    The Sentinel and Chronicle were correct to report that the Senate Appropriations Committee cut Project Prometheus. The SAC cut $100 million from NASA’s Prometheus request. Why the confusion? NASA’s budget request has Prometheus money in both the Exploration Systems account and the Science account. The $430 million approved by the Senate is roughly what NASA was seeking for Prometheus under Exploration Systems. There’s another $100 million in the Science account for new RTGs, JIMO science requirements, and some in-space propulsion efforts.

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