"This recommendation provides for the continued efforts of NASA's Moon-Mars goals, but more importantly restores some of the cuts made by the Administration to the science, aeronautics, and education portfolios at the agency. The Administration requested the science and aeronautics programs at a level too low to adequately support important programs and projects. The cuts made to these programs are simply short-sighted. These additional funds should begin to achieve a balance of funding of NASA programs. Clearly, the agency has too many responsibilities and not enough resources to accomplish them all. Unfortunately, the Committee could not provide sufficient funds to fully restore all of the cuts made to these important programs.
"Through the hearing process, the subcommittee heard testimony from outside witnesses about how long-term discoveries in science benefit society and the importance of keeping the U.S. competitive in our global economy. The Committee believes that the science, aeronautics, and education programs at NASA are essential to the U.S.'s continued leadership and competitiveness in science and technology sectors, and therefore should be considered a part of America's Innovation Agenda. Considering how integral aeronautics is to the U.S. economy, and how striking scientific developments are achieved from Earth and space science, the Nation should fund these efforts at the same rate as other Innovation Agenda research and development accounts."
At this point the report describes a new account structure used by the committee to "improve transparency of resource allocation": Science, Aeronautics, Exploration, Education, Cross-Agency Support Programs, Space Operations, and Inspector General. The report also discusses NASA setting its priorities through funding shifts, the agency's "past inability to adequately anticipate technical problems and project overruns," and its promising workforce strategy.
"The Committee is disappointed with the Administration's request of less than a one percent increase for FY08 and projected minimal increases of approximately one percent over the next several years. These numbers sacrifice future missions of discovery to pay for present efforts. The Nation's investment in research at NASA has made the United States, the undisputed leader in the study of space and the Earth's environment. NASA's programs in space science, Earth science, microgravity science, and astrobiology are the types of basic research investments advocated in the National Academies' 'Rising Above the Gathering Storm' report.
"Unfortunately, grant-based programs, small and medium-sized missions such as Explorer, Discovery, and Earth System Science Pathfinder, and long-term technology development programs that play a key role in training new generations of scientists and engineers have experienced stagnant growth in recent years.
"It is hoped that the funds provided will help to begin to restore some of those cuts and growth reductions. Of the amounts provided above the request, the funds should be applied as follows:
"+$60,000,000 for technology development of missions based on recommendations in the National Academies Earth Decadal Survey;
"+$60,000,000 for the Research and Analysis program;
"+$50,000,000 for the Space Interferometry Mission; and
"+$10,000,000 for a mission to the outer planets.
"In its report, 'Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond,' the National Academies National Research Council (NRC) set a new agenda for Earth observations from space. The report provides a number of recommendations for NASA and NOAA and establishes priorities for Earth science by identifying 15 priority missions for NASA to undertake.
"The Committee recognizes the importance of NASA Earth Science research missions to the Nation to advance our ability to monitor climate, weather, and hazards, and is therefore recommending an increase of $60,000,000 for NASA to initiate several Phase A studies for the missions identified in the NRC report. To the extent possible, the initial seven missions should begin in FY08. The first four (CLARREO, SMAP, ICESat-II, and DESDynl) should begin intensive Phase A activities and the next three (HyspIRI, ASCENDS, and SWOT) should begin pre-Phase A studies if monies are available. The Committee recommends that the results from the studies be reviewed by the National Academies.
"Also within the funds provided for implementation of the NRC's recommendations, NASA is directed to support the continued development of a follow-on Total Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS) at a level of $850,000. As mentioned in the NOAA section of this bill, the decision to restructure the NPOESS program eliminated a number of key sensors for monitoring earth's climate and providing continuity in essential climate measurements. The NRC report and the report 'Impacts of NPOESS Nunn-McCurdy Certification on Climate Research' produced by NASA and NOAA at the request of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) both discussed the importance of continuity in measurements of two key sensors that enable climate researchers to calculate the heat balance of the Earth--the TSIS and the Earth Radiation Budget Sensor (ERBS). The TSIS instrument suite provides data related to long-term climate change and enhanced climate prediction, natural variability, as well as atmospheric ozone and UV-B radiation. Measurements of total solar irradiance have been taken since 1979 and continuity in this measurement is vital to understanding the potential impact on climate change of the very small changes in solar radiation input to Earth's atmosphere over the course of a solar cycle. The Administration is working on options to fly these instruments and maintain the continuity of our climate data record. Until final decisions are made about which missions will carry these instruments, the Committee believes it is prudent to keep the development of these instruments moving forward. The ERBS development is supported through funds provided to NOAA.
"The Earth Decadal survey notes that in 2005, NASA had 18 Earth observation satellites carrying 64 research sensors, yet in 2007, the capacity is down to 14 missions on-orbit, and by 2010 current plans indicate only a few are planned to still be delivering data. Between now and 2010, NASA plans to deploy only five new missions carrying 22 sensors. Currently, NASA's future plans include starting on the order of just two new missions every two years. At that rate, NASA Earth observation research missions will have decreased from 18 on-orbit in the first decade to four or five on-orbit in the second decade in the 21st century. To better inform the Committee on its plans for missions in the 2010-2016 timeframe, NASA should include in its FY09 budget submission its plan for meeting these unmet needs.
"The Committee also notes that that National Academies' Earth Science decadal survey urges the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) in essentially all Earth science areas as part of a balanced portfolio. The report states '. . . UAVs have the potential to revolutionize suborbital remote and in situ sensing with their increased range and loiter time, and their ability to penetrate hazardous environments' as compared to conventional aircraft. The Committee urges NASA to build upon its' existing program and should continue this effort with industry. The Committee expects this issue to be addressed in the Agency's FY 2008 operating plan.
"Additionally, the Committee supports the $90,000,000 requested for the Global Precipitation Measurement mission. This project will improve our ability to collect important data about hurricanes. This valuable information will allow us to better prepare for powerful storms and help minimize their potential damage. The funding level for this mission, and several others, has been included in the bill language.
"The Committee has included an increase of $60,000,000 for the Research and Analysis program. The program has suffered significant cuts in recent years. This program is not only important to maintaining the scientific vitality of the Agency, but also provides real opportunities for young scientists and researchers to analyze data collected from current NASA missions. The Committee expects that the increase provided for Research and Analysis will be allocated in an equitable fashion among all themes of the Science Mission Directorate. As recommended in the NRC study, the Research and Analysis funds should be used to support both in-house and academic research.
"A total of $71,600,000, an increase of $50,000,000 above the request, has been provided for the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM). The Committee disagrees with the Administration's budget request of refocusing the Navigator Program to fund only core interferometry and related planet-finding science and reducing SIM to a development program. It should be noted that this mission was recommended by the National Academies Decadal Astrophysics report in 1990 and 2000. With the funds provided, NASA is to begin the development phase of the program to capitalize on more than $300,000,000 already invested by the agency. The SIM program has successfully passed all its technological milestones and thus is ready for development. Additionally, the Committee expects to see further definition and a timeline for the development of the Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) as part of NASA's FY2009 budget submission.
"The Committee awaits the upcoming results of the NASA study to determine the next outer planet destination and looks forward to working with NASA to support proper funding for a launch of this future mission. The Committee recommends an increase of $10,000,000 to allow the definition of such a mission to assess its scope and cost.
"The Committee commends NASA for its robotic Mars program, one of the Agency's most successful programs with continuing major scientific discoveries and public engagement. The Committee continues to strongly support a robust Mars Exploration Program with a rate of at least one mission at every opportunity (every 26 months) which is consistent with the Administration's FY 2008 request of $625,700,000. Consistent with NASA's science strategy for the next decade, full funding is provided to continue operating present missions (Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Spirit and Opportunity), complete Phoenix for launch in 2007 and Mars Science Lab for launch in 2009, and start the definition and development of Mars Science orbiter for launch in 2013, the Astrobiology Field Lab or Mid size rovers for launch in 2016 and Scout in 2011.
"NASA's airborne programs have suffered substantial diminution as a result of the Administration's recent budget requests. Both conventional and unmanned aerial vehicles aircraft are needed for instrument development for risk reduction and technology advancement and for their direct contribution to Earth observations.
"Finally, a critical factor that will affect what future robotic missions NASA can initiate is the availability of power sources for probes that cannot rely on solar energy because they are traveling too far from the Sun (where solar energy density is inadequate), or too close to it (where solar arrays would be imperiled by the Sun's proximity). Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS) are required for these spacecraft. Future missions to Europa, Enceladus, or Titan are examples (the Cassini probe now studying Titan and Saturn uses RPS). For the past several years, Russia has been supplying the plutonium-238 (Pu-238) needed for U.S. RPSs because U.S. supplies are depleted. Now, Russia's own supplies are running dry. The Committee is aware of NASA's and the Department of Energy's concern that there be a necessary supply of this fuel. However, NASA has curtailed a major part of its technology development for advanced RPS devices. To permit effective planning for future missions, NASA should contract with the National Research Council to prepare a report no later than December 31, 2008 on these issues. The report should address the status of U.S. development of advanced RPS devices; a detailed explanation of what steps are being taken to ensure an adequate supply of plutonium-238 for spacecraft missions; and an indication of how many RPSs, of what design and capabilities, will be available for use and when.
"While the importance of the research and analysis activities both for enabling new missions and for training the next generation of scientists and engineers is clear, there has not been an assessment to date of what the appropriate balance should be between flight missions and Research and Analysis activities in NASA's science space and Earth science programs. For this reason, the Committee directs the Administrator to enter into an arrangement with the National Research Council for an assessment of NASA's Research and Analysis activities, including, but not limited, to determining the necessary characteristics of a healthy and effective program of research and analysis activities and metrics by which effectiveness can be evaluated; principles, criteria, and metrics for determining the appropriate balance of investments between Research and Analysis activities and space flight missions so as to support the agency's overall strategic objectives; and principles, criteria, and metrics for determining the appropriate allocation of resources or effort within research and analysis activities. The Administrator should provide the report to the Committee within 20 months of the enactment of this Act."
"Within the amounts provided, NASA is directed to increase the amount for non-Exploration microgravity life and physical sciences research by $13,500,000. These funds are for non-Multi-User Support and Services activities.
"Although NASA has claimed that a shortfall of more than $600,000,000 (under the new full cost system) exists as a result of the funding levels provided for Exploration in the FY07 enacted bill, the NASA Administrator testified at budget hearings on the Administration's budget request that no additional monies were needed in FY08 and in fact, there would be carryover balances for the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) in this account. Although NASA's plan to bankroll monies fell short in FY08, these funds, which are not actually needed until fiscal years 2009 and 2010, can be made up in future budget requests. NASA is pointing to this temporary reduction of funds as the reason the CEV will be delayed by approximately six months if they are not restored. However, it is fully within the power of the Administration to request sufficient funds in NASA's FY09 and FY10 budget submissions to Congress to maintain the CEV schedule.
"Further, the Committee is concerned that the stated date of its first operational flight - 2014 - may not be realistic. Based on examples of other large endeavors by NASA, most notably the International Space Station (ISS), it is highly possible that the current schedule of the CEV could slip and the cost could increase. Under the original schedule, assembly of the ISS would have been completed by 2002 and the original cost estimate was $17.4 billion. As of 2007, the plan is to have a downscaled version of the station completed by 2010 (due in large part to the retirement of the Space Shuttle) and the conservative cost estimate is approximately $30 billion.
"Achieving the goals of the Exploration Initiative will require a greater understanding of life and physical sciences phenomena in microgravity as well as in the partial gravity environments of the Moon and Mars than we have today. In addition, NASA has long argued that microgravity research can offer important insights into fundamental biological and physical processes that can provide important terrestrial benefits. In recent years, however, NASA has sharply reduced the funding for both basic and applied research in the microgravity life and physical sciences. Nevertheless, the need for such research still exists. The Committee directs the Administrator to enter into an arrangement with the National Research Council to conduct a 'Decadal Survey' of life and physical sciences research in microgravity and partial gravity to define what research is needed and establish priorities for that research for the 2010-2020 decade. The study should be completed by fall 2009, in time to inform decisions on the FY11 budget request.
"Finally, bill language is included prohibiting funding of any research, development, or demonstration activities related exclusively to the human exploration of Mars."
"In order to eliminate the impending gap in United States human-carriage capability and reliance on foreign providers, the Committee encourages NASA to consider exercising its option for the Commercial Cargo Capability (COTS) Capability D (crew transport) as soon as possible from unallocated, uncommitted, or otherwise available funds within the appropriated FY COTS budget line, and NASA should report back to the Committee on program spending plans."