NASA Gets Funding Increase for Space Exploration Initiative

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Publication date: 
24 November 2004

Under the omnibus bill funding the remaining FY 2005 appropriations (H.R. 4818), the House and Senate conferees gave NASA a substantial downpayment on the President's Space Exploration Initiative. Even after an across-the-board cut of 0.8 percent, NASA receives $16,070.4 million, a 4.5 percent increase over FY 2005 funding of $15,378.0 million. The Science, Aeronautics and Exploration account is reduced by 1.9 percent, while the Exploration Capabilities account grows by 11.1 percent.

In the explanatory language accompanying the bill (H. Rept. 108-792), the conferees identify the shuttle's return to flight and servicing the Hubble Space Telescope as two of NASA's highest priorities for fiscal year 2005. They also discuss, among other issues, the need for authorizing legislation for the Space Exploration Initiative, the lack of specific requirements for a Crew Exploration Vehicle, and NASA's ability to transfer funds between the Exploration Capabilities and the Science, Aeronautics and Exploration accounts.

SCIENCE, AERONAUTICS AND EXPLORATION: Down 1.9%, to $7,680.7 million.

This is a decrease of $149.3 million from the FY 2004 level of $7,830.0 million. The request was $7,760.0 million; House appropriators recommended $7,621.2 million, and Senate appropriators recommended $7,736.5 million. Specific funding totals are not provided for space science, Earth science, and biological and physical research. Over 100 earmarks are specified in the Science, Aeronautics and Exploration account.

EXPLORATION CAPABILITIES: Up 11.1%, to $8,358.5 million.

This is an increase of $837.5 million from the FY 2004 level of $7,521.0 million. The request was $8,456.0 million; House appropriators recommended $7,496.8 million, and Senate appropriators recommended $7,811.1 million. More than 25 earmarks are specified in the Exploration Capabilities account.

Below are selected quotations from the "joint explanatory statement." All numbers provided have been reduced by the 0.8 percent across-the-board reduction:

EXPLORATION INITIATIVE: A significant portion of the explanatory language addresses the space exploration initiative. "The initiative is a very long-term endeavor and will require tens of billions of dollars over the next two decades," the conferees state. "As such, the initiative deserves and requires the deliberative benefit of the Congress." The conferees require NASA to submit "a comprehensive package of authorization legislation" and urge the appropriate House and Senate authorizing committees "for action to specifically endorse the initiative and provide authorization and guidance." Additionally, the conferees ask NASA for information on the programs it intends to phase out "in order to accommodate the vision."

SCIENCE PROGRAMS: The conferees direct the National Academies' Space Studies Board, by March 15, 2005, to "conduct a thorough review of the science that NASA is proposing to undertake under the space exploration initiative and to develop a strategy by which all of NASA's science disciplines, including Earth science, space science, and life and microgravity science, as well as the science conducted aboard the International Space Station, can make adequate progress towards their established goals, as well as providing balanced scientific research in addition to support of the new initiative."

HEAVY LIFT CAPABILITY: The conferees also ask NASA for a report on the agency's "heavy lift capability needs and plans to meet those needs immediately and in the future." Later in the report, the conferees state that they are "prepared to commit funds for development of a Crew Exploration Vehicle [CEV], but remain concerned that there has not been enough initial planning to determine what specific capabilities the CEV should have." They caution NASA against repeating "the mistakes of the International Space Station," and call for "an independent oversight committee capable of examining the design, technology readiness, and most importantly the cost estimates for the CEV."

HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE: The conferees provide $288.7 million for a Hubble servicing mission. "The conferees believe a successful servicing mission to Hubble should be one of NASA's highest priorities and have provided a substantial increase in funding to accomplish this goal."

UNRESTRAINED TRANSFER AUTHORITY: Note that the conferees provide, at NASA's request, "unrestrained transfer authority between the Exploration Capabilities account and the Science, Aeronautics and Exploration account...because NASA needs flexibility as it completes its transition to full cost accounting. While this transfer authority can be used for purposes other than addressing full cost accounting issues, NASA is cautioned to do so with restraint."

SPACE SHUTTLE: Declaring that "returning the shuttle fleet to flight, the first step in the Space Exploration Initiative, should be NASA's highest priority," the conferees provide $4,284.7 million for this activity. They state that "the space shuttle remains the cornerstone of our Nation's heavy launch capability and is critical to the future of the International Space Station and scientific research." If additional resources are needed, the conferees state that the Administration could submit a supplemental request, or NASA, with congressional approval, could make "funding adjustments to augment the budget for the space shuttle as necessary." Later in the report, the conferees "direct NASA to keep the Committees on Appropriations...informed, in writing, of any movement of funds related to the shuttle program, as well as including the out-year impacts on all activities involved in the funding shifts."

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (ISS): "As soon as the shuttle is available to provide access to the ISS," the conferees call for NASA to submit a plan "detailing the steps necessary to complete construction of the ISS," including cost implications, a construction timetable, and a timeline for "the eventual transition to a new manned launch vehicle."

The complete text of the joint explanatory statement can be found at; at the bottom of the first page select "Status of FY 2005 Appropriations bills," then click on the Conference Report (H. Rept. 108-792) of the Consolidated Appropriations bill. The NASA provisions fall under Division I (VA/HUD/Independent Agencies) of the joint explanatory statement.

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