Last night’s results indicated that something close to the status quo will reign in space policy in the near future. The balance of power remains unchanged: the Obama Administration will be in office for the next four years, while the Senate remains in Democratic hands and the House in Republican hands for the next two. There will be some second-order changes: ScienceInsider notes that about a fourth of the House Science Committee’s current membership won’t be back next year, and the committee will need a new chairman with Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) term-limited under Republican rules. And there will also be speculation about changes at NASA, including how long current administrator Charles Bolden will remain on the job.
However, just because there hasn’t been any major changes on either end of Pennslyvania Avenue doesn’t mean, as a SPACE.com article put it today, that “NASA will likely continue along its current path” towards a human mission to a near Earth asteroid by 2025. While that goal may remain on the books, the ability of NASA to achieve that goal will strongly depend on what happens over the next eight weeks regarding negotiations about the 2013 budget and efforts to avoid sequestration. Without a deal, eight weeks from today—January 2, 2013—the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration will go into effect, cutting NASA’s budget by over eight percent. Even if a deal is reached, the space agency may face spending cuts, although likely in a more targeted fashion than those implemented by sequestration. Those cuts could certainly impede NASA’s ability to continue on its current path. In other words, don’t look too far ahead just yet.