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FYI Number 105: July 5, 2005

Senate Appropriators Would Boost NASA Science Funding

In their FY 2006 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill, Senate appropriators would provide a substantial increase for NASA's science and aeronautics programs, while cutting funding for the space agency's exploration capabilities. The bill (H.R. 2862), which was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 23, would provide $16.396 billion for NASA. This is an increase of 2.0 percent, or $326.0 million, over FY 2005 funding of $16.070 billion. (This number does not include additional supplemental appropriations for FY 2005; nor do any of the FY 2005 funding levels below). The Senate Committee's recommendation is less than the amount sought by the Administration ($16.456 billion) and less than the comparable House bill ($16.471 billion). However, within this funding level, Senate appropriators would provide more for Science, Aeronautics and Exploration - and less for Exploration Capabilities - than either the Administration or the House.

In the report accompanying the bill (Sen. Rept. 109-088), Senate appropriators warn that NASA's science programs should not be sacrificed to support the space exploration initiative. "The new National space policy to proceed with human and robotic exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond," the report says, "has profound implications for all of the science conducted by NASA. While the Committee applauds those goals, it is concerned that the strong, balanced science program that has served the Nation so successfully for many years could be left behind instead of being nurtured and sustained. That science program has been based on a set of carefully crafted scientific strategies that are founded on scientific and technical merit, relevance to overall national needs, and broad consultation with the scientific community. NASA is encouraged to look for ways to maintain a balance with the productive science NASA is known for and currently has underway, while taking the steps to fulfill the exploration vision."

The Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee is chaired by Richard Shelby (R-AL); the Ranking Minority Member is Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). Below are details of the bill and selected quotations from the accompanying report. For the complete text of the report, see http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app06.html.

SCIENCE, AERONAUTICS AND EXPLORATION:

The Committee recommends $9.761 billion, an increase of $2.080 billion, or 27.1 percent, over FY 2005 funding of $7.681 billion. The Administration's request was $9.661 billion; the House recommended $9.726 billion.

Hubble Space Telescope: "A servicing mission to the Hubble Telescope is a National priority.... The Committee reiterates its strong support for an appropriate servicing mission to Hubble to ensure the continued operation of the telescope into the next decade. Therefore, in preparation for a potential shuttle based servicing mission, the Committee recommends an increase of $250,000,000 above the budget request for an SM-4 mission to be completed by the end of 2008, pending a final decision by the NASA Administrator."

Microsatellites: "The Committee recognizes the potential for fulfilling some future planetary exploration, mapping, positioning, and communications requirements at greatly reduced cost through microsatellites. Of the funds recommended for Exploration Systems, $20,000,000 shall be used for the evaluation of alternative small spacecraft technologies with the potential for dramatically lowering planetary exploration costs. These funds shall be applied to developing low cost payload and satellite bus technology in a pathfinder mission demonstrating high impact exploration technologies."

Discovery Missions: "The Committee supports the independent review of the Discovery 11 selection process and...is concerned about potentially escalating costs associated with future Discovery missions. Therefore, for all future Discovery missions following Discovery 11, the Committee caps the Discovery program at not more than $350,000,000 per mission."

Living With A Star: "The Committee recommends the requested level of $234,000,000 for the Living With A Star [LWS] program. This program is one of NASA's most important space science programs. The Committee expects NASA to issue an announcement of opportunity for the Geospace Radiation Belt Storm Probe no later than July 29, 2005. In addition, the Committee directs NASA to develop a plan to guarantee launch of this Geospace mission and the Solar Dynamic Observatory [SDO] as close to 1 year of each other as possible, with the Solar Sentinels to follow thereafter within a reasonable timeframe. The Committee remains concerned about SDO's cost growth over time and expects NASA to take steps to manage it so as not to adversely impact the future launch schedules of Geospace and the Solar Sentinels."

Solar Terrestrial Probes: "The Committee recommends $78,800,000 for NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probes program, the same as the budget request [to support] an early 2006 launch of Solar Stereo as well as... to commence phase C/D work for the magnetospheric multiscale [MMS] mission, with the expectation that MMS will have a funding profile to launch no later than 2011."

Earth Science: "Earth science has been a critical part of the balanced space program.... The Committee remains fully committed to a robust Earth science program at NASA notwithstanding the recent headquarters reorganization plan. The Committee expects NASA to remain fully committed to Earth science, with future missions that reflect a serious commitment to Earth science as a vital part of the Nation's space program [and] recommends $102,837,000 within this account to supplement activities within the areas of earth science and exploration." The recommendation also "includes an increase of $15,000,000 above the budget request for the NASA Earth Science Applications Program." The Committee praises the "efforts of the National Academy of Sciences to devise an earth science decadal survey" and calls on NASA to prepare an implementation plan, "with new start funding attached, to initiate the highest priority missions from the decadal survey in fiscal year 2007." The Committee "expects this implementation profile to have a continuous mixture of small-, medium-, and observatory-class earth science missions that guarantee regular and recurring flight opportunities for the earth science community." The Committee additionally "directs NASA to ensure that the EOSDIS and [EOSDIS Core System] remain the operational foundation of the evolutionary ground system to implement all of the new missions funded as a result of the earth science decadal survey."

Education Programs: "NASA has a long history of supporting science, technology, engineering, and mathematical education. This support reaches all levels of education from K-12 to graduate level. For NASA to embark on its vision for exploration there must exist a general workforce that is technically skilled as well as a wide range of scientists and engineers for NASA to draw upon. This will require exciting young minds in the areas of science, and then sustaining this excitement through college and beyond..... Within the education programs provided for within this account, the Committee recommends $12,000,000 for the NASA Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research [EPSCoR], $29,550,000 for the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program (Space Grant), and $54,233,000 for other education-related activities. The Committee also encourages NASA to continue its cooperative educational programs with the Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium in New York. The Committee directs, to the extent possible, that education funds within this account address the education needs of women, minorities, and other historically underrepresented groups."

Crew Exploration Vehicle: "The Committee is prepared to commit funds to the Crew Exploration Vehicle [CEV], but is concerned that the current plans for accelerating the schedule for the CEV could have a dramatic impact in the funding profile of the program. NASA is encouraged to find ways to mitigate the impacts of such a change in fiscal year 2006 funding for the CEV if this becomes necessary." The report adds, "As NASA begins to consider another manned vehicle program, it must not repeat the mistakes of the Space Station, where poor management and lack of independent oversight resulted in major cost overruns."

EXPLORATION CAPABILITIES:

The Committee recommends $6.603 billion, a decrease of $1.755 billion, or 21.0 percent, from FY 2005 funding of $8.358 billion. The Administration's request was $6.763 billion; the House recommended $6.713 billion.

Space Shuttle Fleet: "There is no higher priority than improving the safety and reliability of the remaining Shuttle orbiters. The Shuttle remains the cornerstone of our Nation's heavy launch capability and is critical to the future of the ISS and scientific research.... The Committee is concerned that as the Shuttle and the Shuttle infrastructure continue to age, further challenges in operating the fleet may arise. The Committee recommends $4,530,600,000 for the Shuttle...identical to the budget request." In a related administrative provision, the report notes that "The Committee has removed the transfer authority that NASA was granted as an extraordinary measure in fiscal year 2005..... In order to assure proper funding levels for the Shuttle program, extraordinary flexibility for transfers was allowed by the Committee. Now that the Shuttle program has returned to regular funding patterns, the need for comprehensive transfer authority no longer exists."

International Space Station (ISS): "The Committee notes that the ISS continues to operate at a reduced level with future construction not expected to begin until later this year, at the earliest. Despite the ability of international partners to fill the gap created by the grounding of the shuttle fleet, the capabilities of the ISS have been dramatically diminished.... If there is to be a redirection of the research to be conducted onboard the ISS, any revision shall be done in consultation with the ISS partners.... If NASA intends to have international partners for future space exploration, then NASA should be sure not to exclude its current partners in making decisions involving the research direction and construction schedule of the ISS." Additionally, "NASA is reminded that it must provide the Committee with a plan detailing the steps necessary to complete construction of the ISS."

ADDITIONAL REPORT LANGUAGE ON SPACE EXPLORATION INITIATIVE:

Regarding the President's "vision to return man to the Moon and eventually to Mars," the report states that "The Committee is supportive of the vision, but also has reservations about fully moving forward to implement this ambitious undertaking without comprehensive authorization legislation." According to the report, "NASA's new vision maps out an aggressive role for the United States in both manned and unmanned space exploration. However, the potential out-year costs are substantial and will likely be very difficult to sustain at the estimated levels. In addition, there must be a commitment by NASA to those activities that are already underway." The Committee expresses disappointment "in the lack of detail provided in the fiscal year 2006" budget request, and calls for greater detail in the FY 2007 request. It also expresses concern "that NASA will neglect areas that will only tangentially benefit from, or that do not fit within, the proposed vision. Within the fiscal year 2006 budget request, programs and infrastructure are proposed to be deferred or cancelled in such areas. These programs appear to be the sacrifices for the near-term budgetary resources needed to facilitate the implementation of the Moon/Mars vision."

Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3094

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