President Bush has requested a total of $15.5 billion for NASA for FY 2004. This is 3.1% greater than the Administration had requested for FY 2003, and 3.8% more than the space agency received in FY 2002. Due to the recent shuttle Columbia tragedy, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe did not provide the customary public briefing on the budget request. Agency budget documents state that "the budget is restructured to reflect the Strategic Plan," and "program budgets have been revamped to reflect full cost," including the costs of personnel and facilities. Highlighted initiatives include "breakthrough nuclear propulsion and power systems that will be demonstrated on an ambitious mission to Jupiter's moons; revolutionary communications technologies...; constellations of networked spacecraft that will probe the edge of black holes and the dark energy that is expanding the universe; research into the human factors of space travel...; research into climate change targeted at high priority policy issues; new aeronautics technologies...; and education programs to expand the number of students pursuing science and engineering careers."
Because the FY 2003 appropriations process has not been completed, it is difficult to place the FY 2004 request in context. One way to look at the FY 2004 request is to compare it to NASA's FY 2002 operating plan, which is based on a final appropriation, to see how funding would change over this two-year period. In most cases below, FY 2004 request levels have been compared with both the FY 2003 request and the FY 2002 funding level.
Space Science funding would grow a significant amount by either measure. Biological and Physical Research would also experience a healthy increase, while Earth Science funding would drop from both the FY 2002 level and the FY 2003 request. The Space Flight Enterprise would fall from the FY 2002 level, remaining essentially the same as the FY 2003 request.
Please note that the FY 2003 and FY 2004 requested amounts are shown in the "full cost" format (including such costs as personnel and facilities), but the FY 2002 levels are not, so comparisons between the FY 2004 request and the FY 2002 funding levels may not be exact. In addition, no one yet knows what impact the shuttle catastrophe and ensuing investigation will have on NASA's budget request.
Details of selected NASA programs, with explanatory quotes from NASA budget documents, are provided below:
SPACE SCIENCE ENTERPRISE: $4,007 million; up 39.8% from NASA's FY 2002 operating plan; up 15.5% from the FY 2003 request.
The Space Science Enterprise "seeks to answer fundamental questions about life in the universe." It comprises the five themes below:
- Solar System Exploration: The FY 2004 request of $1,359 million includes funds for the Messenger, Dawn and Deep Impact missions currently in development; exploration of the outer solar system planets including the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt; and astrobiology research to seek life on other planets. New initiatives include the Project Prometheus mission to Jupiter's icy moons and an optical communications initiative.
- Mars Exploration: The FY 2004 request of $570 million includes funds for development of a 2005 Reconnaissance Orbiter, a 2007 Scout Mission, a 2009 Mars Smart Rover/Lander, and a new 2009 telecommunications satellite around Mars.
- Astronomical Search for Origins: The request of $877 million supports Hubble Space Telescope operations, servicing and retrieval missions, as well as development of a James Webb Space Telescope to "build on the legacy of Hubble" and a Space Interferometry Mission.
- Structure and Evolution of the Universe: The $432 million request includes funds for development of the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) and a new "Beyond Einstein" initiative to investigate unanswered questions about black holes and the Big Bang.
- Sun-Earth Connections: The $770 million request supports development of STEREO, a Solar Dynamics Observatory, and future flight missions.
EARTH SCIENCE ENTERPRISE: $1,552 million; down 4.5% from NASA's FY 2002 operating plan; down 3.6% from the FY 2003 request.
The Earth Science Enterprise "seeks to understand and protect our home planet," and comprises the two themes below:
- Earth System Science: The FY 2004 request of $1,477 million reflects a decrease from the FY 2003 request, "driven primarily by major development programs that are past their peak development spending and are preparing for launches...including AURA, Cloudsat, and Calipso." The request includes funds for the NPOESS (joint NASA-NOAA-DOD) Preparatory Project, the Landsat data continuity mission, climate change research and modeling "to aid policy and economic decision-makers," and to accelerate certain aspects of the Climate Change Research Initiative.
- Earth Science Applications: This theme, with a request of $75 million, has been "completely revamped to focus on 12 specific applications of national priority where other agencies' decision support systems can be markedly improved based on NASA-provided data and information."
BIOLOGICAL AND PHYSICAL RESEARCH ENTERPRISE: $973 million; up 18.7% from NASA's FY 2002 operating plan; up 6.6% from the FY 2003 request.
This Enterprise conducts research "to address opportunities and challenges of human exploration of space." The FY 2004 request includes $39 million for a new Human Research Initiative and responds to last year's Research Maximization and Prioritization (ReMAP) study. The three themes are as follows:
- Biological Sciences Research: The FY 2004 request of $359 million supports Fundamental Space Biology and Bioastronautics Research.
- Physical Sciences Research: The $353 million request responds to the ReMAP study by realigning funds and providing adequate levels of reserves for high priority areas of Space Station research operations and hardware development.
- Research Partnerships and Flight Support: The $261 million request includes funding for Space Product Development and additional research/logistics missions to Space Station.
SPACE FLIGHT ENTERPRISE: $6,110 million; down 10.5% from NASA's FY 2002 operating plan; up 0.1% from the FY 2003 request.
This enterprise "provides many critical enabling capabilities that make possible much of the science, research, and exploration achievements of the rest of the Agency." The request includes $3,968 million for the Space Shuttle, $434 million for Space and Flight Support, and $1,707 million for the International Space Station. Regarding the Space Station, the budget documents state that "funding drops as planned as development activities near an end and on-orbit operations and research becomes the focus of the program.... The Space Station program is well on its way to completing work on the U.S. Core Complete configuration...and the last U.S. flight element is scheduled for delivery to NASA by the spring of 2003." However, it is unknown how the Columbia tragedy will affect the budget and schedule of NASA's space flight programs, including completion of Space Station construction.
The FY 2004 request for NASA's EDUCATION ENTERPRISE is $170 million. The request for this Enterprise supports minority university research and education, the Educator Astronaut Program, the Explorer Schools Program, Scholarships for Service, the Explorer Institutes, and continuation of the Space Grant/EPSCOR programs and pipeline development programs.
Details of the FY 2004 NASA request and supporting materials can be found at http://www.nasa.gov/about/budget.