Exploration Funding Up in NASA FY06 Budget Request

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Publication date: 
11 February 2005

"The Vision for Space Exploration remains an Administration priority even in this challenging budget environment." - NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe

NASA's budget for exploration would grow substantially, while its science funding would drop slightly, in the FY 2006 budget request released by the White House on Monday. The total NASA budget would climb 2.4 percent, from $16.070 billion in FY 2005 to $16.456 billion. Funding would be provided to develop a robotic mission to deorbit the Hubble Space Telescope, but no funds are proposed for a servicing mission.

"The budget maintains resolute focus on exploration priorities and critical milestones, based on our science priorities," outgoing NASA Administrator O'Keefe said in his statement on the budget. Regarding NASA's science programs, O'Keefe indicated that while the science budget would decline for FY 2006, it is expected to grow in future years: "The [request] for the Science Mission Directorate builds on our recent scientific successes and projects a 23 percent increase in the total science budget by 2010." To the extent that across-year comparisons can be made, the FY 2006 request for NASA science programs is also lower than the FY 2004 funding level.

According to agency budget documents, in order to focus on the exploration initiative, NASA has again reorganized its corporate structure by streamlining and changing its programs. It has now established four Mission Directorates: Science, Exploration Systems, Space Operations, and Aeronautics. This makes funding comparisons between FY 2006 and previous years difficult. For the comparisons below, the numbers used are taken from the FY 2006 request and NASA's FY 2005 "Initial Operating Plan," which provides FY 2005 funding in the context of the new Directorates.

Further details on NASA's budget request are available at: http://www.nasa.gov/about/budget/index.html . Most of the information and quotes below are from the NASA FY 2006 Budget Request Summary.

SCIENCE: Down 0.9%, or $50.9 million, from $5527.2 million to $5476.3 million.

Solar System Exploration - up 2.3% to $1900.5 million.
The Universe - down 0.1% to $1512.2 million.
Earth-Sun System - down 4.3% to $2063.6 million.

According to NASA budget documents, "The newly organized Science Mission Directorate (SMD)...seeks to understand the origins, evolution, and destiny of the universe and to understand the nature of the strange phenomena that shape it. SMD also seeks to understand: the nature of life in the universe and what kinds of life may exist beyond Earth; the solar system, both scientifically and in preparation for human exploration; and the Sun and Earth, changes in the Earth-Sun system, and the consequences of the Earth-Sun relationship for life on Earth."

Hubble Space Telescope: Within the Science Mission Directorate, funding for the Hubble Space Telescope would be reduced from $215.7 million in FY 2005 to $190.7 million in the request. Funding would be provided to develop a robotic means for deorbiting the Hubble at the end of its useful life, but no money is slated for a servicing mission to extend its scientific life.

EXPLORATION SYSTEMS: Up 17.9%, or $480.9 million, from $2684.5 million to $3165.4 million.

Constellation Systems - up 113.0% to $1120.1 million.
Exploration Systems Res. & Tech. - up 27.2% to $919.2 million.
Prometheus Nuclear Systems & Tech. - down 26.0% to $319.6 million.
Human Systems Res. & Tech. - down 19.7% to $806.5 million.

NASA budget documents state: "The role of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) is to develop a constellation of new capabilities, supporting technologies, and foundational research that enables sustained and affordable human and robotic exploration. The research and technology development activities of the former Exploration Systems Enterprise and former Biological and Physical Research Enterprise have been merged into ESMD. In this way, ESMD can integrate fully the broad engineering systems infrastructure requirements and the critical human system requirements necessary for human exploration of the solar system to ensure safety, sustainability, and exploration crew effectiveness."

SPACE OPERATIONS: Up 0.9%, or $58.6 million, from $6704.4 million to $6763.0 million.

International Space Station - up 10.8% to $1856.7 million.
Space Shuttle - down 0.3% to $4530.6 million.
Space & Flight Support - down 22.6% to $375.6 million.

The budget documents state that "Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD) programs ensure that NASA's human and robotic explorers have reliable, safe, and affordable access to space while creating new exploration and research opportunities through the extension of human presence in space. The SOMD enables NASA to achieve its goals by providing: transportation systems like the Space Shuttle, operational research facilities in space like the International Space Station (ISS); and space communications systems and its supporting infrastructure. The SOMD also provides the unique human system necessary to open the space frontier as broadly as possible."

AERONAUTICS: Down 6.0%, or $53.9 million, from $906.2 million to $852.3 million.

According to NASA budget documents, this directorate "supports NASA's mission to understand and protect Earth by playing a key role in the technology developments needed to resolve the challenges faced by the aeronautics community and create a safer, more secure, environmentally friendly, and efficient national aviation system."

EDUCATION PROGRAMS: Down 23.0%, or $49.8 million, from $216.7 million to $166.9 million.

The budget documents state that NASA's Education Programs "will provide unique teaching and learning experiences through the Agency's research and flight missions. Students and educators will work with NASA and university scientists using real data to study Earth, explore Mars, and conduct scientific investigations.... And, NASA Education programs will increase support to the Nation's universities providing challenging research and internship opportunities for qualified students."

In remarks on the FY 2006 request, House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) commented, "As for NASA, the budget appears to be reasonable and balanced overall." Regarding the Hubble, Boehlert said, "I would love to save the Hubble, but the decision needs to be made in the context of the overall NASA budget.... Congress will have to make a decision about Hubble very soon - probably no later than the end of March - if a servicing mission of any kind is to have a realistic chance of moving forward."

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