On September 4, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of the FY 2004 VA/HUD Appropriations bill. This bill, S. 1584, would fund NASA at $15,339 million, a level equal to the current FY 2003 budget. This level is $130 million less than President Bush requested, and $201 million less than what is recommended in the House bill. Senate appropriators would cut the funding for the Science, Aeronautics and Exploration account, while increasing funding for Space Flight Capabilities by a comparable amount. No additional funding above the request would be provided in FY 2004 for implementation of the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
SCIENCE, AERONAUTICS AND EXPLORATION: While budget levels are not specified for Space Science, Earth Science, or Biological and Physical Research, the entire Science, Aeronautics and Exploration (SAE) account would be reduced by $1,417 million (15.5%) from the FY 2003 level, to $7,731 million. This is still an increase of $70 million above the FY 2004 request. The House bill would provide $7,708 million.
SPACE FLIGHT CAPABILITIES: The budget for Space Flight Capabilities would increase by $1,416 million (23.0%) from current funding, to $7,582 million. This is $200 million below the requested level. The House bill would provide $7,806 million.
It is worth noting that the House bill uses different FY 2003 funding levels than does the Senate bill, and the House bill states that those numbers include "transfer of funds." The Senate bill does not appear to reflect these transfers.
The Senate Appropriations Committee report (S. Rpt. 108-143) accompanying the bill includes extensive language regarding the results of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board's (CAIB) investigation. Selected portions of the report relating to Space Science, Earth Science, and Biological and Physical Research follow. The next FYI will contain selections from the report relating to the CAIB recommendations and NASA's Space Flight Capabilities. Readers who wish to read the entire NASA portion of the report may find it at http://thomas.loc.gov.
SPACE SCIENCE: "The opportunities presented under the new Project Prometheus [nuclear power and propulsion initiative] are both compelling and will be revolutionary to how space research is done. The additional power resources developed through nuclear power will provide scientists with unprecedented ability to collect data though powerful scientific instruments. The Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter [JIMO] will use breakthrough nuclear propulsion and power systems to fuel an ambitious mission to Jupiter's icy moons.... It has been estimated that the cost of Project Prometheus through 2012 will be on the order of $8,000,000,000 to $9,000,000,000. This ambitious project, and the resources it will consume, will require NASA to make trade-offs over the next decade, but if successful, could change the potential scientific payoff for all missions after a successful JIMO mission."
Among the adjustments made by the committee to the budget request for Space Science is "A decrease of $20,000,000 for the JIMO. The Committee notes that JIMO received $20,000,000 in unanticipated funding in fiscal year 2003. This funding was done in advance of the new initiative and is considered to have been used to initiate JIMO earlier than previously planned by NASA." The committee also would provide an increase of $3.0 million within available funds for the Solar Probe mission.
EARTH SCIENCE: Adjustments to the budget request include "A decrease of $11,000,000 from Global Climate Change Research Initiative; A decrease of $15,000,000 from Earth Science Applications; An increase of $11,000,000 for mission formulation studies for EOS follow-on missions; [and] An increase of $25,000,000 for EOSDIS Core System Synergy Program." Regarding the future EOS Data and Information System (EOSDIS), the report states, "The Committee supports NASA's decision to guarantee that the future data system will be evolutionary in nature. Such an approach must maximize the utilization of the existing operational ground system while allowing for the introduction of new capabilities as new technologies develop. Utilizing the existing EOSDIS Core System, the Committee expects NASA to develop the initial baseline architecture and information technology blueprint for this system. The architecture should guarantee the system's resilience to accommodate various flight models and schedules, as well as permit the maximum number of end users from the scientific, educational, governmental and commercial sectors."
BIOLOGICAL AND PHYSICAL RESEARCH: "In previous years, the Committee has expressed its intent that scientific research remain one of NASA's top priorities. However, delays in the construction of the Station and the current stand down of the Shuttle fleet have significantly reduced the opportunities for life and microgravity research in the near term. The Committee urges NASA to resume, as practically as possible, scientific research in this area, as well as to fully employ all resources currently available to further research in this area until regular operations on the ISS are resumed."