The reaction to the proposed FY 2009 NASA budget has been decided muted: few people seem terribly excited about the budget, but then, few people are terribly outraged about the budget as well. After taking into account the accounting shift that moves management and operations expenses into the Cross-Agency Support account, there are few radical shifts in the budgets, just continued trends with some smaller tweaks. (Interesting trivia: the FY09 budget is the first where Constellation, at $3.05 billion, exceeds the Space Shuttle, at $2.98 billion.) NASA is squeezing more science out of a static budget, and there’s continued support for COTS.
Congressional reaction to the budget isn’t exactly positive, but not overly harsh, either. “At first blush, it unfortunately appears to be a ‘business-as-usual’ budget that does little to address the significant challenges NASA is facing,” Bart Gordon, chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, told Florida Today. He expressed concern about the level of aeronautics funding in particular, as well as a lack of funding needed to accelerate Constellation. Bill Nelson, chair of the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, is also disappointed, citing the lack of funding to close the Shuttle-Constellation gap.
- The proposal reduces NASA Langley’s budget from $700 million to $608 million, but center director Lesa Roe is not panicking, noting that the proposal doesn’t include funding for specific science and exploration work planned for the center.
- NASA Glenn is also concerned about budget cuts that would reduce the center’s funding by 4.3% in FY09. Like at Langley, though, they expect funding from additional projects to make up some of the difference.
- NASA Ames is pleased by the inclusion of a small lunar spacecraft program, which includes $80 million in 2009 for work on a lunar orbiter, to be followed by small landers. “We are now basically the lead agency for lunar science,” center director Pete Worden told the San Jose Mercury News.
- The Planetary Society concludes that the budget is “strong on Earth, weak on Mars”, given its emphasis on new Earth sciences missions and reshuffling of Mars missions. The NASA budget documents do mention planning (but as yet no funding) for a Mars sample return mission tentatively planned for the 2018-2020 timeframe.