"While the Committee is supportive of the exploration aspect of NASA's vision, the Committee does not believe it warrants top billing over science and aeronautics." - House Appropriations Committee Report on FY 2005 VA/HUD/Independent Agencies Appropriations
NASA's budget would be cut by 1.5 percent in the VA/HUD/Independent Agencies FY 2005 Appropriations bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee on July 21. According to a draft of the accompanying report, the Committee indicates that, while supportive of President Bush's proposal for space exploration, it continues to give priority to NASA's science and aeronautics programs. It urges NASA to heed the advice of the National Academy of Sciences, which is reviewing options for extending the life of the Hubble Space Telescope. The Committee would also cut the requested funding for the International Space Station as a result of "continued delays in the shuttle return-to-flight."
The Committee would provide a total of $15,149.4 million for NASA in fiscal year 2005. According to the draft report, this is a decrease of $1,094.6 million (or 6.7%) from the budget request of $16,244.0 million, and a decrease of $228.7 million (or 1.5%) from the FY 2004 enacted appropriation of $15,378.0 million. In its FY 2005 budget request, NASA proposed reorganizing several of its accounts, which makes comparisons with prior-year funding levels difficult. As indicated below, the Committee report makes comparisons between its recommendations and the comparable FY 2004 appropriations "as estimated in this new account structure." Details and selected quotations from the draft committee report follow.
SCIENCE, AERONAUTICS AND EXPLORATION:
Science, Aeronautics and Exploration would receive $7,621.2 million in FY 2005 under the Committee's bill. According to the report, this amount is a decrease of $138.8 million (or 1.8%) from the budget request of $7,760.0 million, and a decrease of $209.0 million (or 2.7%) from the FY 2004 level of $7,830.2 million "as estimated in this new account structure." The report does not specify appropriations levels for Space Science, Earth Science, or Biological and Physical Research, but includes substantial language on NASA Space Science Programs.
"The Committee believes that the planetary exploration and space science programs at NASA are essential to the mission and success of the federal space program. Therefore, the Committee provides full funding for several important NASA missions. The Committee supports the continued robust program for the exploration of Mars at $691 million. In addition to supporting several critical, ongoing missions such as the Mars Exploration Rovers and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, this level will also fund major initiatives which will usher NASA into a new generation of discovery. In addition to Mars exploration, the Committee provides $155.1 million for the Space Interferometry Mission, which will determine the positions and distances of stars several hundred times more accurately than any previous program. Project Prometheus is supported at a reduced level, with a concentration on basic research into the development of space power systems and space nuclear propulsion systems."
The report lists a number of reductions from the request for Space Science, including the following: $12.4 million from the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter mission, $70.0 million from the Lunar Exploration mission, $5.0 million from "other research" within the Structure and Evolution of the Universe theme, and $5.0 million from Living With a Star in the Sun-Earth Connection theme. (Keep in mind that these are cuts from the requested level, not the FY 2004 appropriation.)
Hubble Space Telescope Life Extension:
Also under Space Science, the report says, "The Committee notes that the National Academy of Sciences has recently issued an interim report on the usefulness of the Hubble Space Telescope.... The Committee encourages NASA to heed the advice of the Academy, including a further evaluation of the option of using the shuttle to perform a servicing mission. The Committee has taken no action at this time with regard to funding for the Hubble program, but will re-evaluate the programs' needs as they become more defined."
The Committee would provide $7.496.8 million for this account, a decrease of $959.6 million (or 11.4%) from the FY 2005 request of $8,456.4 million and a decrease of $23.9 million (or 0.3%) from the FY 2004 level of $7,520.7 million "as estimated in this new account structure."
Space Exploration Initiative:
"The Committee finds the significant public support of the new Vision for Space Exploration to be noteworthy. The Committee is supportive of the new vision, and believes that it will serve to preserve our nation's leadership in space. The Committee support includes a commitment to the safe return to flight of the space shuttle fleet, the completion of the International Space Station as a unique scientific research facility, the implementation of a sustained and affordable robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond, and extending human exploration activities beyond low-earth orbit in a timely fashion.... The Committee believes that a robust space exploration program will help strengthen our nation's economy, benefit our national security, and stimulate the education of future generations of scientists and engineers. At this time, the Committee does not have sufficient resources to meet the full budget request for NASA in fiscal year 2005. However the Committee is hopeful that if additional resources are identified as the legislative process moves forward, it may be possible to augment NASA funding."
Retirement of the Space Shuttle Fleet:
"The Committee continues its support of the space shuttle program by fully funding the budget request. While the Vision for Space Exploration indicates that the shuttle fleet will retire in 2010, the Committee believes this reflects an optimistic assessment of when a replacement system could become operational and believes NASA needs to re-evaluate this date in the context of the current budget environment and the technical challenges associated both with return-to-flight activities and new system development needs."
Funding and Research Aboard the International Space Station:
"Within this enterprise, the International Space Station budget is reduced by $120,000,000 [from the request], which represents an estimate of the underrun associated with this program due to continued delays in the shuttle return-to-flight. Additionally, the Committee recommends a reduction of $70,000,000 to the budget request for cargo/crew services.... The Committee has concerns about the role of materials research onboard the International Space Station [ISS]. NASA has developed a backlog of application-oriented materials research experiments that have undergone multiple peer-reviews. The Committee recognizes that materials research performed in the microgravity environment offered by this unique laboratory has the potential to play a significant role in developing the novel and improved materials, innovative devices, and enhanced manufacturing processes of the future. The Committee strongly urges NASA to give full consideration to the role of materials research in its ISS research program."
The report would provide increases over the requested level for NASA Education Programs, funding the National Space Grant College and Fellowship program at $28.2 million (compared to an FY 2004 appropriation of $25.3 million) and the EPSCoR program at $12.0 million (compared to an FY 2004 appropriation of $10.0 million).