Let the games begin: NASA political budget pong opens at $17.7 billion

NASA 2013 budget helps, hurts depending on program

If this year is like the recent few, hunting season on NASA programs started today when the White House submitted its 2013 budget which included a $17.7 billion  piece for NASA - an almost $60 million reduction from last year's contentious budget.

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The program that took the biggest hit was Mars exploration where NASA pulled out of helping fund the Mars exploration program it was developing with the European Space Agency.  NASA and the ESA originally envisioned the Exo Mars program would launch a system to the red planet by 2016 with a second launch in 2018. The space angencies recently said they are looking at bringing on the Russian Federal Space Agency as a partner in the planned Exo Mars and now such as move would likely be one of the only ways to save it.

The budget does provide a lift for the commercial space industry and continued development of new large rocket.

Some NASA budget highlights:

  • The budget provides $830 million in NASA funding that will be coupled with private-sector investments to develop new US capabilities to transport human crews to the International Space Station.
  • $2.9 billion for the next-generation, deep-space crew capsule and heavy lift rocket that will send human-exploration missions to new destinations.
  • $699 million for the development of innovative new technologies that can expand the potential and lower the cost of our space science and exploration efforts.
  • Earth science funding of $1.8 billion supports research and a robust fleet of Earth observation spacecraft to better understand climate change, improve future disaster predictions, and provide vital environmental data.
  • $628 million to place the $6.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope on track to launch in 2018. Paying for the oft-overbudget satellite has been a prickly topic in recent months and will likely be a target once again when hearings begin on the 2013 budget.
  • NASA's R&D portfolio totals $9.6 billion in the 2013 budget, an increase of $203 million or 2.2% over the 2012 enacted level.

None of this money of course it set in stone as congress has yet to debate the proposed budget. 

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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