Space News reported Friday that a long-awaited fiscal year 2013 operating plan for NASA will make some funding adjustments for several key programs, including commercial crew development and planetary science. The plan, not publicly released yet by NASA, would fund commercial crew at $525 million, effectively undoing the effects of sequestration and rescission on the program. Planetary science, which received additional funding even after sequestration and rescission compared to the administration’s request, would lose that funding: it would go back to $1.2 billion, the amount originally requested by the administration for FY13. The funds cut from planetary would be redistributed to the James Webb Space Telescope and to earth sciences.
Neither change is that surprising. Back in April, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations Bill Gerstenmaier told a joint meeting of the Space Studies Board and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board in Washington that NASA would try and recover funding lost by commercial crew due to sequestration and rescission. “We can repair some of this with an ops plan change with Congress, so we’ll probably make some movement to try and fix commercial crew a little bit,” he told the committees at the April 4 meeting.
Last month, planetary scientists warned that the increase provided to NASA’s planetary science program was in danger of being rolled back by the operating plan. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a staunch supporter of planetary science and a member of the House Appropriations Committee, told Space News he “will be working with my House and Senate colleagues to push back on these cuts.” It’s unclear if there’s enough support among his colleagues to reject the operating plan and force NASA to undo those changes to planetary science funding.