The release of NASA’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal on Tuesday didn’t generate many strong reactions, either positive or negative. “I’m mixed,” writes The Planetary Society’s Casey Dreier in a blog post summarizing the budget. He was pleased there was a small amount of money to begin pre-formulation work on a Europa mission, but worried about a long-term decline of missions. “Analysts were worried about that a flat NASA budget at $17.7 billion would be difficult to maintain, given NASA’s commitments,” he writes. “Now we’re over $200 million less than that. SOFIA is the most recent casualty of this slow decline.” (The society’s official statement on the budget will come after the release of more detailed budget information, expected either late this week or early next week.)
Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) also sees the budget as an “improvement” for planetary science at NASA, but an insufficient one. “While I’m pleased to see the budget continues to provide funding for the Mars Exploration Program, in particular the Mars 2020 mission, and recognizes the importance of a future mission to Europa, a far greater investment will be necessary to ensure America’s preeminence in planetary science,” said the congressman, whose district includes JPL. “I look forward to working with my colleagues, once again, to restore adequate funding to planetary science and only wish it wasn’t necessary to do so year after year.”
The Space Foundation weighed in on the budget in general, supporting the funding levels for programs such as SLS and Orion, ISS, and commercial crew. It also argued that the additional $885 million above the $17.46 billion baseline, part of the administration’s overall Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative (OGSI), should be funded. “With NASA’s budget at a historic low as a percentage of the federal budget, we strongly support the $18.4 billion proposal as a bare minimum,” Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham said in a statement.
The overall NASA budget proposal also got support from the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA). “While budget details on specific exploration accounts are not yet available, we are encouraged that the President’s request supports human exploration and we look forward to learning more details on the President’s recommendations to increase space investments,” AIA president and CEO Marion Blakey said in the statement. She added the AIA “strongly support[s] the proposal to extend the space station until at least 2024; the work that is being done there cannot be replicated at any other national laboratory.”
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation said it supported the budget requests for commercial crew and space technology, whose requests are significantly above what those programs received in 2014. “We applaud the robust support for Commercial Crew and Space Technology which will strengthen our space industrial base, and secure the nation’s place as a leader of exploration and innovation,” CSF president Michael Lopez-Alegria.
A key member of Congress, though, didn’t share the relatively upbeat assessments of those industry groups. “However, I am disappointed to see flat or even decreased funding in a number of key areas of the federal government’s R&D budget,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the ranking member of the House Science Committee. “For example, the budget request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration fails to even meet the 2014 enacted funding level and, if enacted, will hinder the agency’s performance in the coming years.”