Senators: NASA needs more money

Yesterday’s hearing on the NASA budget by the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee was attended by two members: chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and ranking member Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). (Cynics would note that these two should be identified as Sens. Shelby (R-MSFC) and Mikulski (D-GSFC/STScI).) While it was clear in the questioning of NASA administrator Michael Griffin that they were looking after interests in their own states, they also made it clear that they thought NASA needed more money. For example, during a line of questioning by Shelby about science funding, Griffin noted that the planned science budget increases of up to 7% could not be sustained when NASA’s budget as a whole was growing at 2.4%. “I agree with you, we need more money,” Shelby said.

“I did not say that,” Griffin responded.

“Well, I say it,” Shelby said.

“Yes, sir,” Griffin said.

In a press release after the hearing, Mikulski said that she “called on the Bush Administration to increase funding for NASA in the federal budget, which cuts billions from science programs.” In the hearing itself, Mikulski was asking Griffin how much money it would take to speed up the CEV so it would be ready as soon as possible after the shuttle is retired when Shelby stepped in. “Sen. Mikulski, if you’ll yield, it’s obvious that we need more money to fund NASA,” he said.

“I think that’s it, Mr. Chairman,” she responded.

“You’re absolutely right,” he said.

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