While much of the attention in the upcoming hearings this afternoon and tomorrow morning on NASA’s proposed fiscal year 2014 budget will be on items like the agency’s new asteroid initiative, SLS and Orion, and commercial crew, one other topic that may get some notice is the agency’s planetary science budget. Congress moved to partially restore a 20-percent cut for planetary science in NASA’s 2013 budget proposal, but that cut returns in the 2014 proposal, and there are concerns NASA may redirect funding allocated to planetary in the 2013 budget.
Last last week, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) issued a press release expressing concern about NASA’s funding for planetary science. “There have been reports that the FY 2013 NASA Operating Plan will slash funding from the Planetary Science programs,” the release stated, referring to the operating plan that NASA must deliver to Congress by May 10 outlining any reprogramming of funds it is seeking from the levels in the 2013 appropriations bill. The release included a letter signed by Schiff as well as Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) outlining specific issues with the FY13 spending bill. “While we fully understand that the funding levels enumerated in the bill and report are subject to change to reflect the across the board and sequester cuts, we expect that the balance among programs will remain consistent with the structure directed by Congress,” they write.
Meanwhile, the FY14 budget seeks $1.22 billion for planetary science in 2014, about the same as what NASA requested in 2013 and down fromthe $1.5 billion in 2012. In recent days The Planetary Society has been trying to drum up public support for increasing planetary funding, directing people to an online form calling for its funding to be restored (at least to 2012 levels.) “In difficult economic times, The Planetary Society recommends that Congress prioritize the effective and productive Planetary Science Division within NASA and fund it at $1.5 billion per year,” the organization stated in testimony it is submitting to Congress this week on the NASA budget proposal.