Recently in Budget Category
US science agencies face budget limbo, Nature.com
"Another year, another round of budget roulette for US science agencies. When Congress returns from its summer break on 6 September, it will have just three weeks to pass a new government funding bill before the 2017 budget year begins on 1 October. ... Policy analysts predict that lawmakers will pass a stopgap funding measure that will keep agencies' budgets flat until the presidential election in November - and perhaps into next year. The House spending bill for NASA includes an extra $200 million for the agency's planetary-science programme compared with the current level, whereas the Senate has proposed cutting the programme's budget by about $300 million."
NASA Report: New Worlds, New Horizons: A Midterm Assessment, National Academies of Sciences
"NASA's WFIRST, the top-ranked large space-based mission in the 2010 survey, is designed to answer questions about dark energy, exoplanets, and general astrophysics. Since the release of the survey, the WFIRST scope and design have evolved to include a 2.4-meter telescope, larger infrared detectors, and an instrument called a coronagraph that enables directly imaging an exoplanet by blocking the light emitted by its parent star. These changes, while scientifically compelling, could result in further increased costs and further delays for the mission, the committee said. It recommended that prior to final confirmation of the changes, NASA conduct an independent review of the project to ensure it does not crowd out investment in the rest of NASA's astrophysics portfolio and, if necessary, de-scope the mission. The report also finds that the driving factor in the delay or non-pursuit of some new NASA initiatives, including WFIRST, was the schedule change and increased cost associated with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) - a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that is set to launch in 2018. As a result, NASA's WFIRST mission was delayed, and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) - a space-based gravitational wave detector that first took shape as collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) - did not go forward."
"Despite these concerns, NASA is pressing ahead with an effort to try and accelerate development of Orion to enable an August 2021 launch of Exploration Mission-2. Yet the GAO found this scenario improbable. "To stay on the aggressive internal schedule, the agency is counting on receiving higher appropriated funds than what it plans to request, which may not be realistic in a constrained budget environment," the report states. There is low confidence - 40 percent - in NASA making the 2021 launch date, and the GAO believes this may not be a "beneficial strategy" for Orion in the long term."
"GAO found that the Orion program's cost and schedule estimates are not reliable based on best practices for producing high-quality estimates. Cost and schedule estimates play an important role in addressing technical risks. ... For example, the cost estimate lacked necessary support and the schedule estimate did not include the level of detail required for high-quality estimates. Without sound cost and schedule estimates, decision makers do not have a clear understanding of the cost and schedule risk inherent in the program or important information needed to make programmatic decisions. ... NASA and the Orion program have made some programmatic decisions that could further exacerbate cost and schedule risks. The Orion program is executing to an internal schedule with a launch readiness date of August 2021, which has a lower confidence level than its commitment baseline. This means that NASA is accepting higher cost and schedule risk associated with executing this schedule .... The lack of cost reserves has caused the program to defer work to address technical issues and stay within budget. As a result, the Orion program's reserves in future years could be overwhelmed by work being deferred. Program officials told GAO that they have not performed a formal analysis to understand the impact that delaying work might have on the available reserves since the program was confirmed. Without this type of analysis, program management may not have a complete understanding of how decisions made now will affect the longer-term execution of the program."
"... the SLS program has not positioned itself well to provide accurate assessments of core stage progress - including forecasting impending schedule delays, cost overruns, and anticipated costs at completion - because at the time of our review it did not anticipate having the baseline to support full reporting on the core stage contract until summer 2016 - some 4.5 years after NASA awarded the contract. Further, unforeseen technical challenges are likely to arise once the program reaches its next phase, final integration for SLS and integration of SLS with its related Orion and Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) human spaceflight programs. Any such unexpected challenges are likely to place further pressure on SLS cost and schedule reserves. ... NASA officials stated that this review will have limited discussion of cost and schedule. Proceeding ahead without reassessing resources, however, could result in the EGS or SLS program exhausting limited resources to maintain pace toward an optimistic November 2018 launch readiness date. ... In July 2015, GAO found that SLS's limited cost and schedule reserves were placing the program at increased risk of being unable to deliver the launch vehicle on time and within budget."
Keith's note: The next time you hear the space and planetary science communities complaining about budget cuts consider what their NASA mission PIs are paid at SwRI (2014 IRS Form, Part VII)
[Juno] Scott J Bolton $345,145 + 51,887
[New Horizons] Sol A Stern $370,522 + 52,435
SwRI is not at all shy about telling you how much money they earn - indeed they put this on their press releases. They are a non-profit, so this whole income thing should not be all that important - right? Just sayin'
"About SwRI: SwRI is an independent, nonprofit, applied research and development organization based in San Antonio, Texas, with nearly 2,800 employees and an annual research volume of $549 million."
Keith's note: Dick Malow, a long-time staff member on the House VA-HUD Appropriations subcommittee, has died after a lengthy illness. Malow was known for his support of NASA which often required some tough love on his part. Over the years Malow managed to have a lot of influence upon the way that the International Space Station was designed, re-designed, and then redesigned again so as to make it easier to assemble and more useful to the people who would eventually do research on it. His influence on what eventually became the ISS was rather substantial and was not totally appreciated at the time. I can remember more than once sitting in a meeting with the engineering side of the Space Station Freedom program when a design or science utilization issue came up. Usually someone was trying to cut a corner or reduce some capability that the science users needed. More than once I said something to the effect of "well, if the science types tell Malow about this you know that there will be a directive from Congress telling you to stop doing it." Indeed, that actually happened more than once. Dick Malow helped keep the space station alive when others wanted to kill it and helped make it useful when others just wanted to launch hardware - any hardware - that simply kept the lights on.. Ad Astra Dick.
Obituary, Washington Post
Condolences to Dick's family. He did indeed keep NASA's feet to the fire on bldg a USEFUL space station; influential on so many other issues— Marcia Smith (@SpcPlcyOnline) June 2, 2016
Kilmer, Bridenstine Get Full Funding for FAA Space Office, Space Policy Online
"During markup of the FY2017 Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) appropriations bill today, the House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment to fully fund the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) at the requested level of $19.8 million. That is $1 million more than the T-HUD subcommittee recommended."
The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Applauds House NASA Funding Bill, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration
"The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (Coalition) applauds House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee (CJS) Chairman John Culberson, Ranking Member Mike Honda and the entire Appropriations Committee for its exceptional support for NASA's human and science exploration programs in its FY 2017 Appropriations bill, which boosts NASA funding to $19.5 billion. Like their counterparts in the Senate, the CJS Subcommittee has worked across the aisle to produce a bipartisan bill that ensures our space program receives the necessary funding to continue America's leadership in space."
NASA begins on Page 54. On page 61 the report says:
"Mission to Mars. While the Committee recognizes the benefits of some of the technology that is under development as part of the asteroid redirect and retrieval missions, namely advanced propulsion technology research, asteroid deflection, and grappling technologies, the Committee believes that neither a robotic nor a crewed mission to an asteroid appreciably contribute to the over-arching mission to Mars. Further, the long-term costs of launching a robotic craft to the asteroid, followed by a crewed mission, are unknown and will divert scarce resources away from developing technology and equipment necessary for missions to Mars, namely deep space habitats, accessing and utilizing space resources, and developing entry, descent, landing, and ascent technologies.
Toward that end, no funds are included in this bill for NASA to continue planning efforts to conduct either robotic or crewed missions to an asteroid. Instead, NASA is encouraged to develop plans to return to the Moon to test capabilities that will be needed for Mars, including habitation modules, lunar prospecting, and landing and ascent vehicles.
Further, the Committee is supportive of NASA's efforts to use the International Space Station (ISS) to conduct research necessary to enable long-term human spaceflight, or ''Earth-reliant'' technology development; cis-lunar space activities, or ''proving ground'' efforts such as Orion flights on SLS in the vicinity of the Moon, and deployment and testing of deep space habitation modules; and finally, NASA's ''Earth independent'' activities which include using cis-lunar space as a staging area, mapping potential human exploration zones and caching samples on Mars as part of the Mars Rover 2020 mission."
Senate Appropriators Approve $19.3 Billion for NASA for FY2017, SpacePolicyOnline
"NASA displays its budget request as the combination of the three -- $19.025 billion -- and breaks down the request for individual accounts like science, aeronautics, and space technology accordingly. The $100 million from the oil company tax was designated entirely for aeronautics, for example, so NASA's budget chart shows the aeronautics request as $790.4 million, a sharp increase from the $640 million appropriated for the current year. Congress summarily rejected the Administration's notion of taxing the oil companies, however, and appropriations committees have no authority over mandatory spending. From the Senate Appropriations Committee's standpoint, therefore, the request was $18.262 billion. Throughout its report, the committee compares what it approved to that figure, not to the $19.025 billion that NASA displays. It therefore is very important to exercise care when reading the committee's report because it may say that it provided more or less than "the request," but that may not be obvious looking at NASA's budget presentation."
- Time: 10:30 AM
- Markup of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017
- Markup of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017
- NOTE: Webcast will be audio-only.
- Senate Appropriations Budget Action Starts, earlier post
"The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies today approved a $56.3 billion spending bill to support national security, law enforcement and American scientific innovation. ... National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - $19.3 billion for NASA, $21 million over the FY2016 enacted level and $1 billion above the FY2017 NASA budget request, to support the human and robotic exploration of space, fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe, and support fundamental aeronautics research. This includes: ..."
China wants to mine the moon for 'space gold', PBS NewsHour
"At a cost of more than $150 billion, the International Space Station is the most expensive object ever built. This price tag is more than double the combined costs of China's Three Gorges Dam, Boston's Big Dig and the Chunnel. But as noted by CNN, funding for the International Space Station may run out in the early 2020s."
Keith's note: $150 billion? Where did that number come from? The cost reference is a Wikipedia article that cites a 2010 post on some website called "Zidbits" (that says ISS cost $160 billion) and a 2010 SpaceReview article by some french journalist who cites old NASA budget charts and cost estimates from other news stories.The Wikipedia article has separate numbers for ISS construction and shuttle flights that simply do not jive in any mathematical way with what NASA OIG says - they overstate NASA's costs by $50 billion when compared to a more recent NASA OIG report - that's a 33% difference in the overall cost.
"Although NASA's overall performance has improved, for 8 out of the last 9 years at least one major project has experienced significant cost or schedule growth. Such growth often occurs as projects prepare to begin system assembly, integration, and test; nine projects will be in that phase of development in 2016, including the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System, which are human spaceflight programs that have significant development risks."
"Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): "There are some areas of agreement between the Committee and the administration in NASA's Fiscal Year 2017 budget request. But this proposed budget continues to tie our astronauts' feet to the ground and makes a Mars mission all but impossible."
"Though generally supportive of the budget request, Democratic Members of the Subcommittee discussed a number of concerns, such as the need for funding stability for NASA; the proposed cuts in funding for the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft; the proposed reduction in spending on STEM education; potential risks of schedule pressure for Exploration-Mission 2; and the need for a roadmap for a manned mission to Mars."
"Although NASA is proceeding with development of the SLS, a number of outside panels have questioned whether NASA can afford to build, fly and, sustain the expensive program, especially with projections of low flight rates of one launch or fewer per year. The biggest concern is that the rocket is so expensive to fly it precludes a meaningful exploration program within NASA's existing budget."
Keith's note: With the cuts to both SLS and Orion in the Administration's FY 2017 budget you can expect the same food fight with Congress to pick up where it left off last time. And as was the case before, Congress will go after Commercial Crew and Cargo, Technology, and Earth Science to put SLS and Orion back at the level Congress wants. Of course, election time will soon skew everything and the chances that there will be a formal budget will drop. The net result is that NASA will not know for certain what its budget will be and this uncertainty will cause launch dates to slip to the right. With these slips the overall cost of the SLS and Orion programs will increase - and commercial crew will take longer to happen than might otherwise be the case.
Naturally, the next Administration will stall for time and eventually appoint a blue ribbon panel to write a report and the cycle will start all over again. Their conclusion will be that NASA has no plan (and that it needs to hurry up and develop one) and, by the way, NASA cannot do all of the things it has been tasked to do under a budget that does not grow. Considering that all of these arguments are set to occur under a NASA budget that is likely going to stay flat, nothing will change since no one will give up pushing for the things that they want NASA to do. The inevitable result will be that NASA will end up with a launch system that will have nothing to launch on the imaginary #JourneyToNowhere.
"... it's because of the work of our contractors and our partners in classrooms, boardrooms, laboratories and even garages across our country, that: The state of our NASA is as strong as it's ever been and when I say "our," I really mean it. Because of the work of you and your NASA colleagues to make aviation cleaner, greener, safer and quieter ... the state of our NASA is strong."
"The greatest challenge to these programs is not technical, but budget stability, plain and simple."
"Today we received another unrealistic budget from the president that spends money we don't have and increases taxes on Americans by $2.6 trillion over 10 years. This level of spending insults hardworking American families who don't want to be burdened with higher taxes and slower economic growth."
"Within the NASA portfolio, the request continues the bipartisan commitment to the United States achieving safe, reliable, and independent human access to the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil by 2017."
Keith's note: In the budget media telecon today I asked NASA CFO David Radzanowski what NASA is spending on education in 2017. As is always the case, NASA can never tell you exactly what it spends on education - or what "education" means. Their budget charts talks about $100 Million in 2017 - a cut from $118 in 2016. But wait there's more: $25 million for education from Astrophysics and another $6 million from Earth science. So NASA is actually spending $131 million on education in FY 2017 - not the $100 million shown on their chart. But this is only STEM education according to Radzanowski. When I asked Radzanowski what NASA's total expenditure for education and outreach will be for 2017 he said "I don't have that number".
NASA never has that number - so they won't get back to me on that because (again) they never now that number. They don't know it on purpose (or at least they will never admit it). If they answer the question accurately about what is categorized as "education" then someone somewhere at OMB or in Congress will try and cut that item because it has been labeled as "education". So things get hidden inside of budgets. As a result, no one will ever know what NASA actually spends on education activities. It is like this all over NASA.
"NASA centers across the country are opening their doors Tuesday, Feb. 9 to media and social media for "State of NASA" events, including a speech from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and unique opportunities for a behind-the-scenes look at the agency's progress on its journey to Mars. These events follow President Obama's Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal delivery to the U.S. Congress. Also on Tuesday, at 5 p.m. NASA Chief Financial Officer David Radzanowski will brief media on the agency's 2017 budget proposal."
Detailed NASA budget info is now online at http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/fy_2017_budget_estimates.pdf
Basic NASA Budget information is online at http://www.nasa.gov/news/budget/index.html
"During a Reddit AMA from the International Space Station on Jan. 23 Astronaut Scott Kelly called out the US government for its lack of financial support for NASA. When a Reddit user asked Kelly what he'd like to see the next president of the United States do, Kelly had an interesting answer: "I would like the next president to support a budget that allows us to accomplish the mission that we are asked to perform, whatever that mission may be," Kelly wrote. ... To Kelly's point, even though the Obama administration directed NASA to start working on a manned mission to Mars, many have criticized the administration and Congress for not adequately funding NASA, causing critical Mars projects to fall behind schedule."
"Sen. Richard Shelby loaded up the $1.1 trillion spending bill with pet provisions, including one measure worth hundreds of millions to a rocket manufacturer with operations in his home state. The cagey lawmaker also fought hard for language protecting red snapper fisheries on Alabama's Gulf Coast, even issuing a press release bragging about his efforts. "That is why I fought tirelessly for several provisions to be included in the omnibus appropriations bill that I believe will help respond to the serious challenges facing anyone who wants to fish for red snapper in the Gulf," Shelby said in the release. But in an only-in-Congress twist, Shelby, a very senior member on the appropriations committee, still plans to vote against the sprawling omnibus package. He's citing the lack of language to restrict Syrian refugees as the reason."
"The Arizona Republican is furious with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) for tucking a provision into the massive 2,000-page bill that allows defense contractor United Launch Alliance to keep buying Russian rocket engines reversing language McCain championed in the National Defense Authorization Act that limited ULA to purchasing nine rocket engines." ... But McCain has accused ULA of manufacturing a crisis to get the law changed by not bidding on the first military satellite launch. On the Senate floor Wednesday, he vowed to take up the issue again in next year's defense authorization bill threatening a "complete and indefinite" ban on Russian-made engines."
(Sen. Shelby) Top 5 Contributors, 2011 - 2016, Campaign Cmte, Open Secrets
"Boeing Co $47,500"
"These investments represent a strong commitment to America's human, robotic and science exploration programs," said Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Director of the Coalition. "The robust funding levels achieved in the omnibus will support the continuing development of America's new space exploration systems - leading to the launch of Exploration Mission-1 in 2018. The Space Launch System and the Orion crew vehicle will take humans deeper into space than ever before."
"NASA announced today that its schedule for the first crewed mission of SLS and Orion will slip to 2023; this represents a two year slip from previous plans for the first mission by 2021."
Keith's note: The SLS/Orion lobbying team is happy. Now if only the four amigos and their NASA managers can stop making negative progress on launch dates. You'll notice that the Coalition omits mention of the 2021 to 2023 launch slip for the first crewed mission in their press release. Why spoil the good news with facts, eh?
- NASA Delays First Crewed Orion Flight By Two Years, earlier post
- The Four Amigos and The Future of Competition in Space Commerce, earlier post
- NASA Employs Faith-Based Funding Approach For SLS, earlier post
- GAO Finds NASA SLS Costs Not Credible, earlier post
- NASA Can't Decide What SLS Engines It Does/Does Not Need, earlier post
- SLS CDR: Not As Smooth As Advertised, earlier post
"It's interesting that this is at the very time that in our culture here on earth, the movie that's hearkening back, "Star Wars," is coming out again and it's to be such a blockbuster at the box office. Well, what is fictional in "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" is now becoming factual. And in large part is what has been done in the nation's space program since the shutdown of the space shuttle back in 2011 and in the preparation, the new vehicles, the new rockets, the new spacecraft, the new satellites, the new exploratory missions that have gone on."
CSF Applauds FY 2016 Omnibus, Commercial Spaceflight Federation
"This bill funds NASA at $19.285 billion in FY 2016, an increase of $1.3 billion above FY 2015. Within the NASA portfolio, the bill fully funds the Commercial Crew Program to enable the United States to achieve safe, reliable, and independent human access to the International Space Station by 2017."
NASA Gets Big Boost in Final FY2016 Appropriations Bill, SpacePolicyOnline
"Congress reached agreement on a FY2016 appropriations bill overnight. NASA will get $19.285 billion, $785 million more than the President's request and $1.285 billion more than FY2015. Among the big winners are planetary science, the exploration program (including the Space Launch System and Orion), and commercial crew. The commercial crew program is funded at the requested level of $1.244 billion, a win for the Obama Administration."
"The money taken from Glenn would help pay for a different priority of some Senate members: a Maryland-based robotic mission to refuel and service long-orbiting satellites that otherwise might have to be shut off. Hundreds of satellites orbit the earth to provide observation and weather tracking but were not designed for servicing. If they could operate longer, they could save future replacement and launch costs, NASA says. The proposed $150 million taken from other NASA programs would focus first on keeping the Landsat 7 satellite, launched in 1999 to provide imaging of the earth for a variety of government and commercial purposes, going. Otherwise, the Landsat 7 could reach the end of its useful life in 2019. The robotic program to prolong the life of satellites has been dubbed "Restore-L Pathfinder," and is based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland."
"NASA is currently spending money on its key exploration programs at a rate that assumes Congress will approve a budget increase in the next month, a move that could delay some efforts should the additional funds not materialize. Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, told a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council's human exploration and operations committee here Nov. 4 that NASA was funding programs like the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft at a higher rate than specified in the continuing resolution (CR) currently funding the agency. "Today we're running hot. We're running based on what we saw in the draft House and Senate levels," Hill said. "But if we don't ultimately achieve those levels in an appropriations bill, then we'll have to power back and replan."
Keith's note: Of course the flip side of this is the equal expectation within NASA that its commercial crew and/or cargo efforts will be shortchanged in the budget thus delaying progress, reducing capability, and driving up eventual long-term costs. Punting on the CRS-2 decision gives NASA time to do a lot of things - including waiting until they see how much money they have. If the commercial crew budget gets cut too far there will be renewed pressure to downselect to one provider.
- GAO Finds NASA SLS Costs Not Credible, earlier post
- NASA Delays First Crewed Orion Flight By Two Years, earlier post
- SLS/Orion Gets a Lobbying Organization in Washington (Update), earlier post
- NASA Can't Decide What SLS Engines It Does/Does Not Need, earlier post
- SLS CDR: Not As Smooth As Advertised, earlier post
"Congress approved a major bipartisan budget agreement, negotiated with the White House, that increases discretionary spending by $80 billion total in FY 2016 and FY 2017, creating room for boosts to spending at federal science agencies and offices starting this year. Early this morning, the Senate passed and sent the "Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015" to President Obama, concluding a major bipartisan effort between the White House and congressional leaders in both political parties that brings budget stability to the federal government for the next two years. The agreement, which the President has clearly indicated he will sign into law, lifts the federal debt ceiling through March 2017 and dials back for two years the federal budget sequester that has been in place since the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011."
NASA finally talks Mars budget, and it's not enough, Houston Chronicle
"At the Capitol Hill luncheon, Lightfoot said a Mars program would have to be accomplished with a budget that is one-tenth of the budget that sent Apollo astronauts to the moon. "From a NASA perspective it'll be done for about one-tenth of the budget that we were doing back then," Lightfoot said, according to Space News. A NASA spokeswoman said after Lightfoot's speech that he was comparing the Apollo budget and the agency's current budget based on percentages of the overall federal budget. NASA received 4 percent of the total federal budget during the height of the Apollo Program, and today NASA has 0.4 percent. "We intend to carry out our current ambitious exploration plans within current budget levels, with modest increases aligned to economic growth," NASA's Lauren Worley said. The release of the "Journey to Mars" report that contained no specific budget for a Mars mission frustrated some members of Congress."
Keith's note: NASA's answer just confuses things further. No one with even a shred of fiscal accumen will tell you that a multi-decade program to send humans to Mars - as is typically done by NASA (delays, overruns, and PR hype) - is going to be done "within current budget levels, with modest increases aligned to economic growth." This is just back peddling NASA PR mumbo jumbo designed to try and make it seem that Lightfoot said something other than what he actually said. Oddly, as they berate NASA for its delays that are often due to wacky budget actions by Congress, Congress neglects to mention that between FY10-15 the White House has given $1.8 billion more to NASA than Congress wanted to give the agency while Congress simultaneously and consistently cuts the President's request for Commercial Crew every year.
No one has a plan or a budget. This is no way to send people to Mars.
"October 9, 2015 10:15 a.m. ET: The Subcommittee on Space will hold a hearing on the impact of the president's budget on programs being built for a trip to Mars and other deep space destinations. Witnesses will discuss NASA's plans for future major tests and milestones of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle, as well as how the administration's budget request affects these programs."
- Archived webcast
- Statement of Dan Dumbacher
- Statement by Doug Cooke
- Hearing Examines Impact of President's Budget on Deep Space Exploration
- Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space Discusses Deep Space Exploration
- Hearing charter
"On August 27, 2014, NASA announced a one year slip of EM-1, the first launch of SLS, from 2017 to 2018. This announcement was made despite numerous statements from NASA officials to Congress that the program was on schedule and that no additional funding was needed. Last month, NASA made a similar announcement about the Orion, pushing the launch readiness date for Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) back two years to no later than 20237 from an original date of 2021."
Tight Timing: Congress Returns with Only a Few Days to Pass Funding for New Fiscal Year, American Institute of Physics
"There is both good and bad news about the twelve FY 2016 appropriations bills. Appropriators in the House and Senate have completed work, for the first time in six years, on their bills. Of note to the physics community, the House has passed measures providing funding for the Department of Defense's S&T programs, the DOE Office of Science, NASA, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Nuclear Security Administration, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and U.S. Geological Survey. Despite this progress, work on the appropriations bills has largely stalled because of continued disagreements between congressional Republicans, and congressional Democrats and the White House, about overall spending limits."
Senate Approves U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
"The U.S. Senate, today, unanimously approved S. 1297, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, introduced by Commerce Committee Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee chairman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), full committee ranking member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee ranking member Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and subcommittee members Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). The legislation, which the full Commerce Committee approved by voice vote with an amendment on May 20, 2015, extends the operational use of the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024, a regulatory moratorium on commercial space activity through FY 2020, and ensures stability for the continued development and growth of the U.S. commercial space sector and other space initiatives."
"The amendment was defeated by a 14-16 party line vote. CJS subcommittee chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) opposed the amendment, but said that if a new budget deal is indeed negotiated, he will work with Mikulski on how to allocate any additional funding."
CSF Applauds Mikulski Amendment to Avoid Extending U.S. Reliance on the Russians
"Today the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill. The bill increases NASA's budget by $279 million above its FY 2015 budget, but underfunds NASA's Commercial Crew program by more than $300 million. Failing to fully fund the Commercial Crew program in FY 2016 would result in the United States human spaceflight gap being extended, again, and ensuring further payments to the Russians for launches of American astronauts to the ISS beyond 2017. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Vice-Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, offered an amendment that would have restored the $300 million to the Commercial Crew program, avoiding a further gap and reliance on the Russians. The Committee failed to adopt the amendment."
Coalition for Space Exploration Statement on CJS Appropriations Bill
"The Coalition for Space Exploration is grateful for the strong bipartisan leadership demonstrated by Chairman Shelby and Vice-Chairwoman Mikulski in support of our nation's space exploration program in the FY 2016 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill advanced by the committee today."
"I am deeply disappointed that the Senate Appropriations subcommittee does not fully support NASA's plan to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil as soon as possible, and instead favors continuing to write checks to Russia. Remarkably, the Senate reduces funding for our Commercial Crew Program further than the House already does compared to the President's Budget. By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to space and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own."
Senate Bill Offers $18.3 Billion For NASA, Space News
"A spending bill approved by a Senate appropriations subcommittee June 10 would provide $18.3 billion for NASA in fiscal year 2016, a cut of more than $200 million from both the administration's original request and a companion House bill. ... Commercial crew, however, would receive $900 million in the bill, $344 million less than requested. Space technology is funded at $600 million, $125 million less than requested."
Senate Appropriations CJS Subcommittee Approves Less than Requested for NASA, Space Policy Online
"Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) voiced his objections to the $344 million cut to commercial crew on the Senate floor following the markup. He said if the cut is sustained, it will delay the ability to launch American astronauts on American rockets two more years, which means paying Russia for two more years, costing at least as much. "We need to wake up to what's happening," he implored, adding that Mikulski will offer an amendment tomorrow to restore the commercial crew funding and urging his fellow Senators to support it."
Nelson floor remarks, YouTube
House Debates and Passes FY2016 Funding Bill for NASA, NOAA, spacepolicyonline
"The House of Representatives passed the FY2016 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill (H.R. 2578) on June 3, 2015 after a marathon debate. The bill funds NASA and NOAA among other departments and agencies. No amendments were adopted affecting the House Appropriations Committee's recommendations for NASA or for NOAA's satellite programs, though several were considered."
"... It also cuts support for NASA's Commercial Crew Program that will help end our reliance on Russia for transporting astronauts, critical space technology investments that will help pave the path to reaching Mars, and earth science research that is helping us understand how our climate is changing and how to respond to earthquakes, droughts, and severe weather events."
"Yesterday the House of Representatives passed an amendment to H.R. 2577, the FY 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which would partially restore a requested increase in funding for the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST)."
"The House of Representatives approved an amendment to an appropriations bill June 3 that gives the Federal Aviation Administration's commercial space office part of a budget increase it requested to keep up with its growing workload. The House approved by voice vote an amendment to appropriations bill for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development that transfers $250,000 from an FAA account for financial and management activities to its Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). Rep. James Bridenstine (R-Okla.) introduced the amendment with Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Bill Posey (R-Fla.)"
"The Administration strongly supports the development of a commercial space sector that pushes the boundaries of space exploration while creating jobs and strengthening the American economy. The American commercial launch industry is the most competitive in the world. Over the past several years, the industry has rapidly increased its share of the global market for sending satellites and other payloads into space. The Administration agrees with the goal of H.R. 2262 to bring more stability and certainty to this growing market. While the Administration does not oppose House passage of the bill, it has serious concerns with certain provisions of the bill."
"The bill cuts support for NASA's Commercial Crew Program by $243 million, or 20 percent, relative to the President's Budget. The Commercial Crew Program will build a safe and costeffective U.S. capability to launch astronauts to the space station. The Subcommittee bill cuts will delay the program and force continued reliance on and payment for Russian capabilities for transporting U.S. astronauts. While directing an impractical level of funding toward the Jupiter Europa mission, the bill cuts important NASA Science programs by more than $200 million compared to the President's Budget, jeopardizing Earth Science missions that are helping us understand how our climate is changing and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and severe weather events. The bill also reduces investments in Space Technology by $100 million, or 14 percent, delaying development of a cutting-edge laser communication system and other space technology demonstrations, slowing progress on the journey to Mars, and impacting the international competitiveness of the U.S. commercial space industry."
The House Appropriations Cmte has released the report accompanying the CJS spending bill. Updated NASA budget table: pic.twitter.com/4ZHPg9UAvl— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) May 19, 2015
- Report No. 114-____] Making appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes. (NASA starts on Page 58).
- REPORT [To accompany _____] The Committee on Appropriations submits the following report in explanation of the accompanying bill making appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes.
"National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - NASA is funded at $18.5 billion in the bill, $519 million above the 2015 enacted level."
Keith's note: The bill passed out of the House Appropriations subcommittee to the full committee yesterday with ease. No date yet announced for further action. But, as you can see below, there was a lot of silliness at this mark-up. Many of the members wasted everyone's time spinning yarns about all those good times being a member of Congress. One member went off about "sea lions eating all of the salmon and getting fat" back home. NASA used to have to go up against the Veterans Administration in this subcommittee for funds. Now it has to compete with salmon.
"The House Appropriations Committee today released the draft FY2016 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that will be marked up at subcommittee level on Thursday. It recommends the same total budget level for NASA as the President requested, but allocates the funding differently. Among the changes is a big increase for a robotic mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, a favorite of subcommittee chairman Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) who has led successful efforts to add money for it in the past. The Space Launch System (SLS) also gets a boost, including funds for an "enhanced" upper stage, while the commercial crew program is funded below the request. ... The commercial crew program, by contrast, would get $1.00 billion compared to the $1.24 billion request. That is still a significant increase over the $805 million provided for FY2015, but NASA insists that anything less than the request could mean renegotiating the fixed price contracts with SpaceX and Boeing."
"The NASA authorization bill making its way through the House of Representatives guts our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate, and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events. In addition, the bill underfunds the critical space technologies that the nation will need to lead in space, including on our journey to Mars."
House Science Committee Passes NASA Reauthorization by Party-line Vote
"Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said in her opening statement, "These cuts have absolutely nothing to do with making America safer or stronger. Nothing. They are simply the expression of the Majority's stick-your-head-in-the-sand ideology. This is especially disappointing because we had worked so hard just three months ago to make our NASA authorization a bipartisan bill which could be broadly supported by the aerospace and science community. It's a shame to be throwing all that work away in pursuit of a narrow ideological agenda."
- Letter from the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Letter from the American Astronomical Society
- Letter from the Association of American Universities
- Letter from the American Geophysical Union
- Letter from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
- Letter from the Geological Society of America
- Letter from the Universities Space Research Association
"If enacted, the NASA authorization bill headed to the House floor later this month would do serious damage to the Nation's space program, as well as to Earth-observation and Earth-science programs essential for predicting, preparing for, and minimizing the damage from disasters both natural and human-induced. The bill's cuts to space-technology development would not only risk continued U.S leadership in the space industry, but would also impede progress on precisely those technologies - on-orbit refueling, advanced space propulsion, radiation protection in deep space, and more - needed to make crewed missions to deep space a reality."
"The battle lines are being drawn between Congress and the White House in regard to NASA's budget, and this year they're moving closer to home the planet Earth. In the newly released House of Representatives budget authorization mark-up for fiscal year 2016 one step before Congress actually appropriates the money lawmakers have cut funding for NASA's Earth science programs to $1.45 billion. In his budget request to Congress, shown below, the President sought $1.947 billion."
"THURSDAY, April 30 11:00 a.m. Full Committee Markup of: H.R. ____, the "National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017"
"Aspirational levels create a balanced portfolio between Exploration and Science ($4.95 billion each), and within the Science Mission Directorate ($1.45B for Earth Science, $1.5 billion for Planetary Science, and $2 billion for Astrophysics, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and Heliophysics combined). The bill fully funds the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle (Orion) under both the aspirational and constrained authorization levels, and accelerates the development of SLS and Orion in FY17 under the aspirational level. Similarly, the bill fully funds the Commercial Crew program under the aspirational level and increases funding under even the constrained level by $331 million."
Committee Plans to Restore Balance to NASA's Budget,
House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
"The Obama administration has consistently cut funding for these human space exploration programs, while increasing funding for the Earth Science Division by more than 63 percent. The bill provides authorization levels consistent with NASA's budget request, providing that current restraints within the Budget Control Act are satisfied."
- Hearing Charter
- Testimony by NASA Administrator Bolden NASA FY 2016 House Budget Hearing
- Statement of Chairman Lamar Smith Hearing on NASA's FY2016 Budget Request
-Statement of Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo Hearing on NASA's FY2016 Budget Request
- Subcommittee Reviews the NASA Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2016, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
- Committee Leaders: Space Exploration Must Be NASA's Priority, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
"Witness: Mr. Charles F. Bolden, Jr.Administrator National Aeronautics and Space Administration Date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 2:30pm"
"In 2015, five of NASA's largest, most complex projects, several of which are at critical points in their development, are expected to consume 78 percent of the funds for NASA's major projects. Therefore, existing and new projects will be competing for remaining funds. Fully accounting for the funding, schedule, and technical challenges facing these projects is important due to the cascading effects these challenges could have across the portfolio. NASA has implemented several initiatives to reduce acquisition risk, but management of some of these initiatives remains a concern. For example, while NASA has implemented tools in recent years to provide better insight into and oversight of its acquisition projects, the training for and implementation of these tools have not been consistently and thoroughly applied."
"Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss NASA's FY 2016 budget request. The President is proposing an FY 2016 budget of $18.5 billion for NASA, building on the significant investments the Administration has made in America's space program over the past six years, enabled through the strong and consistent support by this Committee and the Congress."
NASA's $349 million monument to its drift, Washington Post
"In June, NASA finished work on a huge construction project here in Mississippi: a $349 million laboratory tower, designed to test a new rocket engine in a chamber that mimicked the vacuum of space. Then, NASA did something odd. As soon as the work was done, it shut the tower down. The project was officially "mothballed" closed up and left empty without ever being used."
Keith's note: Under the FY 2016 budget Mars Opportunity shuts down in FY 2016 and Mars Odyssey shuts down in FY 2017. Both spacecraft still work. Funny how NASA, Congress, and the White House can spend hundreds of millions on an engine and test stand facilities that will not be used - but keeping still-useful Mars probes operational for a few million is not possible? Where is the logic in that? The "State of NASA" is confused - and adrift - if this is what passes for a good space policy.
Keith's update: According to Dave Radzanowski NASA is looking to zero out LRO, Opportunity, Odyssey etc. in FY 2016 BUT that this happened last year as well and NASA looked at the missions and eventually found the money to keep them going. That said, its a little bit like Charlie Brown and Lucy and the football. They do this every year with small missions. Everyone screams, they find the money, and nothing gets cancelled. You have to wonder why they do this in the first place since they already know that they will fund these missions. Again, this speaks to a lack of strategic thought - the sort of thing you'd expect within an agency that is adrift.
"The President's FY 2016 Budget provides $18.5 billion in discretionary funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to extend humanity's reach in space and strengthen America's leadership here on Earth."
Keith's note: You can expect to see a NASA budget for $18.5 billion to be announced on Monday. Planetary gets treated well and Europa mission planning gets significant money and a Phase A start. NASA also gets what they asked for in SLS and Orion requests. Commercial crew gets over $1 billion. No one got everything that they asked for but this is a move in the right direction for all concerned. More to follow.
"At 4 p.m. Monday, agency Chief Financial Officer David Radzanowski will brief media on NASA's 2016 budget proposal."
- NASA: Two SLS Launches Likely Needed For $3 billion+ ARM, earlier post
"The bill's $18 billion investment in NASA balances the portfolio of science, aeronautics, technology and human space flight investments. Moreover, it will keep NASA in the forefront of innovation, inspiring private companies to build new crew transportation and fueling a new satellite servicing industry that can revive, refuel and rejuvenate defunct communications satellites. The amount provided for NASA is $364 million more than the fiscal year 2014 enacted level."
"Congress is nearing completion of the FY 2015 appropriations cycle. The House and Senate are scheduled to complete action on a $1.1trillion bill providing funding through September 30, 2015 for all departments and agencies with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security that will be funded through early 2015. The bill has not been printed in final form. The section on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is found on PDF pages 42-48, with a funding table on PDF page 68. Note that language in the previous House and Senate appropriations reports stands unless modified by language in the conference report."
Before NASA Pioneers Mars, Orion Spacecraft Faces Tests, PBS NewsHour
Presidential Science Adviser John Holdren: (8:28): "I don't think that the current budgets amount to kicking the can down the road. They amount to - within reasonable limits - getting done the steps that we need to achieve in order, ultimately, to get to Mars. Eventually, yes, between now and the 2030s, we would need to ramp up the budget. At the current budgets we would not get to Mars, that's correct."
"We congratulate the men and women of NASA and their commercial partners for this successful test launch, and we look forward to future milestones on the journey to Mars."
NASA FY 2014 Agency Financial Report"Audit of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Fiscal Year 2014 Financial Statements (IG-15-006, November 14, 2014) The Office of Inspector General contracted with the independent public accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) to audit NASA's fiscal year (FY) 2014 financial statements. PwC performed the audit in accordance with the Government Accountability Office's Government Auditing Standards and the Office of Management and Budget's Bulletin No. 14-02, "Audit Requirements for Federal Financial Statements."
Keith's note: Much of this report was assembled rather sloppily starting with page 107. It gets really bad starting on page 147. The words are not words - just fuzzy images of text - not actual text. its like they scanned a document that had been copied 5 or 6 times and then faxed. I'd be willing to bet that large portions of this document are not Section 508 compliant. Things improve after page 160. You'd think that NASA would spend a little more time to make the document legible. in addition, due to the fact that a substantial portion of this report is not text searchable - and that the fuzzy text pictures almost certainly cannot be run through an OCR program, there are certain Open Government non-compliance issues as well.
"NASA Inspector General Paul Martin today released the Office of Inspector General's (OIG) annual report discussing the most serious management and performance challenges facing NASA. The underlying theme of this year's report is sustainability. Specifically, the OIG noted that NASA's ability to sustain its ambitious exploration, science, and aeronautics programs will be driven in large measure by whether the Agency is able to adequately fund such high-profile initiatives as its commercial cargo and crew programs, Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, James Webb Space Telescope, Mars 2020 Rover, and associated personnel and infrastructure."
"The U.S. Senate passed a short-term funding bill for the federal government Sept. 18, one day after the House of Representatives passed the same bill, but both houses delayed consideration of several space-related bills, in some cases until the next Congress."
"Abandoning all pretense of the House and Senate agreeing on appropriations bills on time, House GOP leaders are tentatively planning to vote next week on a resolution keeping the government temporarily funded at current levels beyond the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year--and probably past Election Day."
Marc's note: Here we go again. Thanks to Jeff Foust for the tip.
"The audit resulted in an unmodified opinion on NASA's fiscal year (FY) 2013 financial statements. An unmodified or "clean" audit opinion means that the financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position and the results of the entity's operations in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles."
"The Obama administration is concerned that a provision in a NASA funding bill being debated on the Senate floor this week would add costs and delays to the program that will replace the mothballed space shuttle with private rockets. As part of a $17.9 billion spending bill to fund NASA in fiscal year 2015, the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this month approved the $805 million for the commercial crew program that will ferry astronauts to the International Space Station."
"Commercial Crew Program. The Administration appreciates the Committee's support for the Commercial Crew program, but has concerns about language that would seek to apply accounting requirements unsuitable for a firm, fixed-price acquisition, likely increasing the program's cost and potentially delaying its schedule."
"Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) took to the Senate floor June 18 and tapped the brakes on a powerful appropriator's plan to subject NASA's commercial crew program to strict federal accounting standards the agency waived when it solicited bids for crew transportation in November."
"The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY2015 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill today. The bill would increase NASA's FY2015 budget by $439 million to $17.9 billion. While that figure is very similar to what the House approved, it would be allocated within NASA quite differently in some cases. Among the differences, the Senate committee would transfer two programs - Jason-3 and DSCOVR - to NASA from NOAA and increase NASA's earth science budget accordingly."
"With NASA under the thumb of the Russian space program, Congress continues to play political games with the space agency. On Thursday the U.S. Senate's Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the fiscal year 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. This means they agreed upon a spending plan to fund NASA, among other agencies.
But buried within the bill could be something of a poison pill for a company like SpaceX. Allow me to explain."
"Spitzer likely can operate through 2018, Helou said. To get there, the project will have to trim its full-time staff, discontinue some engineering support services and cease efforts to make spacecraft operations more efficient, Helou said. There are about 45 full-timers on Spitzer now, including 27 at the Spitzer Science Center. The others are at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, which is run by Caltech, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, California, which built the telescope."
Shutdown for Spitzer and MaxWISE?, earlier post
Spitzer: "Given the budget climate, the SRP cannot recommend funding of Spitzer at the levels requested. Should the mission be unable to operate given the levels of funding recommended through FY18, the mission should plan, in consultation with NASA HQ, for termination."
"Spitzer Space Telescope: The Spitzer mission extension for FY 2015 is not approved due to the constrained budget conditions and based on the findings and recommendations of the Senior Review report."
"Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE): The MaxWISE proposal was recommended for selection by the Senior Review. However, the only source of funding would be to displace funding from higher rated operating missions in the Senior Review. Due to constrained budget conditions, the MaxWISE proposal is declined."
"- The SLS estimate is based on the funding required to develop and operate the initial 70-metric ton variant through first flight in 2017 but not the costs for its second flight in 2021. NASA is now incurring some costs related to the second flight, but it is not currently tracking those costs for life cycle cost estimating purposes. Furthermore, the estimate does not include costs to incrementally design, develop, and produce future 105- and 130-metric ton SLS variants which NASA expects to use for decades. NASA is now funding concept development and analysis related to these capabilities.
- The Orion estimate does not include costs for production, operations, or sustainment of additional crew capsules, despite plans to use and possibly enhance this capsule after 2021. It also does not include $4.7 billion in prior costs incurred during the approximately 4 years when Orion was being developed as part of NASA's now-defunct Constellation program.
- The ground systems estimate excludes costs to develop or operate the ground systems infrastructure beyond 2017, although NASA intends to modify ground architecture to accommodate all SLS variants."
"Yesterday the House Appropriations Committee released an unnumbered Full Committee Print to accompany the FY 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill. This is a draft version of the committee report that is to be issued providing all-important language on the departments and agencies funded by this bill. This FYI reviews the National Aeronautics and Space Administration portion of the report."
"Administrator Bolden, we really do strongly disagree on this" Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said at last week's hearing on the FY 2015 NASA budget request for science programs. Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) was also critical as he questioned the "administration's level of commitment to a forward-thinking inspirational space program."
Wow, an Increase of $170 million for Planetary Exploration, Planetary Society
"The House would provide NASA with $1.45 billion for Planetary Science, which is $170 million above the White House request and an increase of $105 million over last year. This gets us to within spitting distance of The Planetary Society's recommended minimum of $1.5 billion per year for a healthy program, so we are quite pleased with this number!"
"I'm very pleased that the subcommittee has made such a strong investment in planetary science - one of the Crown Jewels of NASA's portfolio. With this funding increase, we will be able to keep Mars 2020 on track and begin an exciting new mission to Europa, two of the science community's highest priorities. We should also be able to continue the operation of craft that have exceeded their estimated lives but continue to produce valuable science."
NASA FY2015 Commerce, Justice, and Science Bill Subcommittee Markup [Watch], SpaceRef Business
"The House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies marks up its fiscal year 2015 Appropriations bill on April 30, 2014. The bill contains $51.2 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other related agencies."
"The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology today approved the NASA Authorization Act of 2014 (H.R. 4412) with unanimous bipartisan support. The bipartisan bill reaffirms Congress's commitment to space exploration, both human and robotic, and makes clear that human spaceflight to Mars is NASA's primary goal."
"The NASA Authorization Act of 2014 continues the consistent guidance Congress has given to NASA for nearly a decade by reaffirming a stepping stone approach to exploration in a go-as-you-can-afford-to-pay manner by developing an exploration roadmap. It supports the development on the Space Launch System and the Orion Crew Vehicle to push the boundaries of human exploration, and focuses NASA's efforts to develop a capability to access low Earth orbit and the International Space Station so that America can once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil."
"... because of budget reductions and the loss of other expected revenue, in FY 2016 the Space Network will not have sufficient funding to meet all planned service commitments. Although NASA agreed to provide free access to Space Network services for some customers beginning in FY 2014 in exchange for their contributions to the design and development of two satellites several years earlier, the Agency failed to adequately plan for the resulting approximately $70 million per year in lost revenue. Consequently, the Space Network has a projected $63 million budget shortfall in FY 2016 and even larger estimated shortfalls in subsequent years."
Full Committee Markup - H.R. 4412, House Science Committee
Apr 29, 2014 1:30 pm - HR 441, as Amended
Subcommittee Markup - FY 2015 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill , House APpropriations Committee
April 30, 2014 9:30 AM - FY 15 Commerce, Justice, and Science Bill - Subcommittee Draft
NASA's Extended Science Missions in Peril, Paul Spudis, Air & Space
"We do not yet know how the Senior Review will turn out. NASA is famous for wanting to "move on" to the next thing and often abandons working spacecraft. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush but as things currently stand, there isn't much in the mission pipeline to move on to. Planetary Science has taken several massive budgetary hits in the past few years, with more on the way. The termination of LRO and MER will not help move new missions off the drawing board. Money not spent on these extended missions will probably slide into SMD's Black Hole of Funding (the James Webb Space Telescope) or be dissipated on new paperwork, committee meetings and concept studies. It would be both fiscally prudent and programmatically responsible for NASA to fund and retain these working and still productive extended missions."
"In less than a half-hour this morning the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee approved a bipartisan bill that would establish important policy for NASA. In contrast to last year's markup of an authorization bill that stretched over five hours with many party line votes, the action this morning required just two voice votes, setting up this bill for action by the full committee."
"The Space Subcommittee today approved the NASA Authorization Act of 2014 (H.R. 4412) with unanimous bipartisan support. The bill updates the previously committee-approved bill to reflect the funding agreement reached in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. The Subcommittee also approved a bipartisan Palazzo-Edwards amendment that ensures sustainability of purpose and budget for high-priority NASA programs."
"If we're going to send Humans to Mars it should be an international effort where cooperation with the Russia and other partners is essential. However relations with Russia have taken a decided cold turn of late including barring NASA from working with Russian colleagues unless it's directly related to the International Space Station."
Marc's note: Includes testimony, audio of hearing and link to video archive.
NASA missions bid for extensions, Nature
"... like six other ongoing NASA missions studying the Moon, Mars and Saturn, Opportunity's money is due to run out at the end of the US fiscal year, on 30 September. Managers for each mission are trying to convince the agency to cough up continued funding, and their arguments are due on 11 April. A 'senior review' panel of external planetary scientists will rank the proposals' potential science return, and submit their suggestions to NASA headquarters for a final decision."
"At a time when space science is one of nation's brightest lights, delivering outstanding scientific discoveries and substantial public support, the President's proposed 3.5-percent cut for NASA's SMD is extremely worrying. We are particularly concerned by the 9 percent cut to the Astrophysics Division and the unanticipated decision to mothball a major mission outside the well-established senior review process. The AAS is also concerned about the imbalance within SMD given the inadequate funding for ongoing mission operations (including damaging cuts to major missions), flat or declining research and analysis grant funding, and the outlook for the Planetary New Frontiers and Heliophysics Explorer competed mission lines."
"NASA's planetary exploration is one-of-a-kind," said Casey Dreier, The Planetary Society's Director of Advocacy. "Our members know this, the public knows this, and we want to make sure that The White House knows this, too. We've had very strong support from key members of Congress, and we will depend on them once again to help preserve NASA's leadership in solar system exploration." Within two days of the Society's call, more than 20,000 messages of support have been sent to Congress, once again demonstrating the intense public support for this key NASA capability."
" ... A year after the introduction of this [Asteroid Retrieval] mission, the Administration still has not provided a detailed mission profile or budget proposal. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 required NASA to provide additional details about the mission concept before Congress would commit long-term resources to the effort."
"The President's budget again seeks to fund an Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM), a mission that experts and Congress have sharply criticized. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) highlighted testimony before the Committee by NASA Advisory Council Chairman, Dr. Steve Squyres, who said "I see no obvious connection between [ARM] and any of the technologies or capabilities that are required for Martian exploration."
"The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) will enable NASA to test powerful Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) and integrated human/robotic vehicle operations in deep-space trajectories. Like the invaluable ISS, this mission will provide NASA with critical knowledge, experience and technologies for future human exploration missions deeper into space."
"During her questions to General Bolden later in the hearing, Ms. Edwards emphasized the need for the Subcommittee to obtain a roadmap for a human mission to the surface of Mars accompanied by the analysis of the options for potential interim destinations."
Marc's Update: You can watch the hearing again if you missed it as we now have an archived copy on SpaceRef.
"Within the context of the Budget Control Act's spending caps, NASA's 2015 budget is $17.5 billion, a slight decrease from the 2014 enacted level."
"And The White House's proposed asteroid retrieval mission is a mission without a budget, without a destination, and without a launch date. Rather than diminish NASA's space exploration mission, President Obama should set forth a certain, near-term, realizable goal for NASA's space exploration. "Many experts believe that a Mars Flyby mission launched in 2021 is a potentially worthy near-term goal. A human Mars mission would electrify the American public, excite American scientists, and inspire American students."
"In the FY 2015 President's Budget Request, NASA addresses the challenge of advancing U.S. leadership in space exploration, space and Earth science, and aeronautics in the current fiscal climate. In formulating this budget, projects and programs have been reviewed and their costs and benefits assessed to ensure the highest scientific return on the dollar."
NASA FY 2015 Budget - Commercial Crew is Investing in America, SpaceRef Business
"Early in his opening statement during the NASA teleconference on NASA's FY 2015 budget request, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden made it clear that reliance on the Russians for access to the International Space Station is choice Congress must choose to end.
Bolden said "budgets are about making choices, and let me clear about one thing, the choice here is between fully funding the request to bring space launches back to the U.S. or continuing millions in subsidies to the Russians, it's that simple. The Obama administration chooses investing in America. We believe Congress will choose this course as well."
On a day where tensions in Ukraine's Crimea only slighted abated, hammering on Congress about the choices they've made with respect to funding Commercial Crew budgeting in past years seemed appropriate. But was anybody listening?"
Computing a Winner, Fusion a Loser in U.S. Science Budget, Science Insider
"A White House summary of NASA's budget notes that the savings achieved by reducing funding for SOFIA will enable "continued support for higher priority programs, including lower cost, competitive science missions, and extended operations for the Cassini Saturn mission." A more detailed presentation of the space agency's budget proposal, unveiled this afternoon by NASA, says the agency is in talks with its German partner to determine the best path forward for SOFIA."
Hertz says MOU with DLR for SOFIA calls for 20 years but #NASA is cutting it and yet NASA won't admit that 20 yrs of ops won't happen.— NASA Watch (@NASAWatch) March 4, 2014
Keith's note: In a NASA FY 2015 press event today I noted the Inspiration Mars/Mars 2021 Flyby congressional hearing last week and how Dennis Tito is asking NASA to pay for a SLS/Orion mission to Mars. Based on the Inspiration Mars 2021 mission date, and all existing SLS/Orion plans, Tito's plan would require the very first SLS/Orion flight with humans to go on this mission to Mars. I asked Bolden if, as Administrator, he'd approve such a mission - one that would require such a mission on the very first flight. Bolden simply refused to answer and babbled on instead about other things that had nothing to do with the question. It is hard to tell if Bolden did not understand the question, did not want to answer the question, or did not know how to answer the question.
"Because of inclement weather in the Washington area, NASA's Fiscal Year 2015 budget media briefing on Tuesday, March 4 now will be a teleconference. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and NASA Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Robinson will brief reporters starting at 2 p.m. EST."
"Provides $17.5 billion in discretionary funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) by prioritizing the research and development that lays the foundation for future long-term growth and exploration, as well as the key commercial partnerships that will enable the efficient long-term operations of the International Space Station."
Detailed NASA Budget, OMB
Cooke: America needs a plan for space exploration, Opinion, Houston Chronicle
"Through logical progression and meaningful missions, I believe Americans will be motivated to support appropriate but reasonable budgets, that are commensurate with the value of the plan and the work needed to accomplish it. We cannot afford to delay or prolong the debate, because timing is critical to catch the unique planetary alignment that makes the first step possible in 2021."
Keith's note: Once again Doug Cooke is incapable and/or unwilling to give budget estimates. But he knows enough, so it would seem, to state that everyone will accept these "reasonable" costs. He never says that NASA's budget will need to be increased substantially in order to do this Mars flyby with SLS/Orion. Does that mean he will take the funds from elsewhere? Flying a mission to Mars in 2021 means that NASA needs to start on this yesterday - and its current and projected budgets will simply not allow SLS/Orion/Mars flyby and ISS to be fully supported simultaneously. Clearly ISS will bear the brunt of the obvious budget reconfiguration. He is saving the sticker shock for later.
Cooke also neglects to mention that he is a Boeing consultant (they are heavily involved in SLS) and that he advises Dennis Tito's Inspiration Mars project - where this whole flyby thing began.
"Last year the Administration championed an Asteroid Mission as a next step. However, the mission was not vetted by NASA's own advisory committees or the stakeholder community before it was presented formally to Congress. Upon review, a majority of experts said that such a mission did not demonstrate sufficient technical applicability to an eventual Mars landing."
Keith's note: This is beyond hilarious. It is pathetic. Lamar Smith (upon the advice of Mike Griffin's former staff on both sides of the dais) did not like Constellation's cancellation so they immediately dismiss whatever this White House and NASA puts forward. They claim "a majority of experts" (who are they?) agree with them. So what do they do? They take a multi-millionaire's ever-changing Powerpoint presentation (with no cost estimates) that NASA is expected to pay for with additional money no one has identified, and hold a hearing with NASA specifically banned - and no contrary opinions allowed.
But wait: this Mars flyby concept is also "not vetted by NASA's own advisory committees or the stakeholder community" (their main complaint about the asteroid mission). But that doesn't stop the contradictory hypocrisy on the part of Lamar Smith, Frank Wolf et al. They just direct NASA to study it. It should be obvious that whatever NASA says will be unacceptable by this committee. But who cares?
Then you see Republican NASA Administrator-in-waiting Scott Pace pontificating about what a space policy should be i.e. a bigger picture with missions selected to implement the grand plan. In fact Pace is saying that he wants to see this specific mission happen and that a space policy should then be crafted after the fact to justify it. He's got his own ideas about space policy backward. Again, who cares?
Isn't that the problem NASA/Congress/White House has had for the past 30+ years? They keep changing their mind about what they want NASA to do - and complain about what it is doing - but then go off and do something new anyway. Then they change the rules to justify what they have already done. And then just as they change the rules (or some big problem erupts) someone changes what NASA should be doing and the idiotic cycle starts all over again. And this process is fueled by partisan hearings that are actually pre-staged puppet shows with everything scripted toward a desired partisan outcome.
You can get neck damage trying to watch things swing back and forth. Imagine trying to distill a cogent, long-term policy from all of this. It is clearly impossible. Yet all of these half-baked, ever-changing ideas absolutely require a long-term bipartisan, multi-administration commitment in order to happen.
Whiplash is no way to explore space. Small wonder other countries are nipping at our heels. We make it so easy for them to do.
- Dennis Tito's Congressional Infomercial - in 5 Tweets, earlier post
- The Band of Brothers Wants a Mars Flyby, earlier post
"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will brief reporters about the agency's fiscal year 2015 budget at 2 p.m. EST on Tuesday, March 4, from Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. NASA Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Robinson and Goddard Center Director Chris Scolese will join Bolden. The news briefing will be carried live on NASA Television and the agency's website. Following the news briefing, journalists in attendance at Goddard will have a media opportunity with the associate administrators of NASA's mission directorates. This will not be carried on NASA TV and is only available to media at Goddard."
Keith's note: In other words unless news media representatives are physically present at one NASA field center (not at NASA HQ) they will not be allowed to talk to AAs about the various Directorate and mission budgets. Apparently NASA GSFC does not have the technical sophistication to set up a few phone lines. Nor will the taxpaying public be able to hear what they have to say. This is an excellent way to make it harder for the media and therefore the public to learn about the budget. Also, you can expect Charlie Bolden to disappear before its time for the media to ask questions. That is what he does every year. But NASA will want everyone to support this budget none the less. So much for openness and transparency.
The Final Frontier's Financial Limits, NY Times
"The Obama administration, which proposed deep cuts in the planetary sciences budget the past two years, could also ask for more money for 2015. "The administration remains committed to operating the pathbreaking Cassini and Curiosity missions as long as they keep passing these rigorous reviews," said Phillip Larson, a White House space policy adviser. "If we keep one going, that doesn't mean we have to cancel the other." The administration's budget request is likely to be disclosed in late February or early March."
- Bolden: No More Flagship Missions (Update: Bolden Flip Flops), earlier post
Continued Victories for Planetary Exploration, Planetary Society
"The book is not closed on 2014. Now that NASA has its money, it has to spend it. It does this through its operating plan, where the agency can make minor adjustments to project funding based on programmatic needs. Last year NASA abused this process and tried to shift all additional money allocated for Planetary Science by Congress to unrelated projects. I feel that this is unlikely to happen again, but it's something that we will be watching closely. I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes you have to ensure that NASA spends planetary money on planetary projects."
The big problem with the "big win" for NASA's exploration program budget, Houston Chronicle
"Sen. Bill Nelson, who chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees NASA, and bills himself as "one of the leading architects of a plan to build a new monster rocket and crew capsule for deep space exploration," said of the plan, "This is a big win." NASA's administrator, Charles Bolden, also praised the budget deal. This is the same Nelson who along with other congressional leaders and the White House agreed on a budget plan to fund and build the SLS and Orion during the summer of 2010 (see authorizing legislation). In that bill Congress called, for example, in fiscal year 2013 to fund the SLS rocket at a level of $2.64 billion. It received significantly less than that in fiscal year 2013. And one would presume funding along those lines, or more, would be needed as the SLS rocket program was building up toward a 2017 test launch. So what did the government give NASA in the new budget for fiscal year 2014? $1.6 billion."
Keith's note: Let's see what the FY 2015 Budget looks like. Those projects that benefited from the FY 2014 budget may see different news in a few weeks. And some projects that did not benefit in FY 2014 may well do even worse in FY 2015. Alas, everyone seems to be parroting the buzz phrase "flat is the new up". When your budget is supposed to be ramping up, "flat" is a budget cut folks.
Once the dust settles is will become clear that there is still not enough money for everything. Congress is going to fund SLS/Orion no matter what the White House or NASA wants them to do and they will raid commercial crew and technology budgets to do so. And when Congress realizes that even more money for SLS is needed it will go back and take more. The asteroid mission is one step away from dead as far as Congress is concerned. Commercial crew is substantially underfunded and will not be able to continue at NASA's advertised pace of flying its first crew in 2017. And despite all of this, the space science crowd thinks that they are somehow immune from these pressures and should be given more money. They are in for a shock.
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation Applauds Passage of Bill Providing Funding for Commercial Programs and Renewal of Government Risk-Sharing
"The bill funds NASA's Commercial Crew Program at $696 million, a significant increase from FY13. "With this bill's strong Commercial Crew funding, Congress has acknowledged the importance of quickly developing a U.S. system to carry American astronauts and reduce our dependence on aging Russian infrastructure," said CSF President Michael Lopez-Alegria. "We applaud Congress for recognizing the importance of a robust U.S. space program and, in particular, an organic capability to provide human access to Low-Earth Orbit."
Keith's note: "strong Commercial Crew funding"? What CSF seems to not comprehend is the fact that the $696M in this budget is $125 million less than the $821M White House asked for in FY 2014. When you take into consideration that of this $696M, $171M is not being given to NASA anytime soon (unless they produce the ISS report that Congress requires), then NASA will only have $525M in FY 2014. $525M is $296M less than the White House asked for i.e. a one-third cut in what was requested.
In FY 2014 budget hearings last year Charlie Bolden was clear that if he did not get the $821M that the White House asked for in FY 2014 then having a commercial crew capability in 2017 was not going to happen. In addition, the NASA OIG noted in a report that previous cuts in commercial crew budgets have already forced a slip from 2015 to 2017. One would assume that future budget shortfalls would have a similar consequence.
No matter how you slice this, NASA is not getting the $821M that was the basis for the line in the sand drawn by Charlie Bolden last year with regard to the FY 2014 budget. Neither $696M or $525M is even close. If Bolden was accurate when he made these public statements, then as soon as the President signs this budget bill into law, NASA needs to be sending notification to Congress, per Bolden's statement, that 2017 is off the table. If not, then you have to question whether NASA can back up any of its statements with regard to what it needs for large projects - SLS, JWST, etc.
"If we aren't able to get up to the $800 million level [FY 2014], then I will have to come back and officially notify the Congress that we cannot make 2017 for availability of commercial crew," Bolden said at that hearing."
NASA IG Warns on Commercial Crew as NASA Celebrates End of COTS, SpacePolicyOnline
"The OIG did not make any recommendations on the issue of unstable funding, but noted that for FY2011-2013, NASA received only 38 percent of its requested funding for the program, resulting in a delay from FY2015 to FY2017 of the first expected commercial crew flight. "The combination of a future flat-funded profile and lower-than-expected levels of funding over the past 3 years may delay the first crewed flight beyond 2017 and closer to 2020, the current expected end of the operational life of the ISS." The report includes the following table showing NASA's successive 5-year budget projections for the commercial crew program beginning in FY2009."
- Charlie Bolden Has His Head In The Sand Again, earlier post
- Confusion on "Pretty Darn Good" Statement from OSTP, earlier post
- Commercial Crew Transportation Capability RFP Released, earlier post
- NASA OIG Report on Commercial Crew Program, earlier post
NASA Receives Bi-Partisan Support for Budget, Exploration Plan
"This appropriations bill reaffirms support for the bi-partisan space exploration plan agreed to by the President and Congress. The bill keeps NASA's deep space exploration program (the Space Launch System and Orion) on track and provides funding to formulate the agency's Asteroid Redirect Mission, an important stepping stone on the path to Mars. The bill also provides funding for our plan to return American space launches to the U.S., ground-breaking scientific discoveries, game-changing technologies and cutting-edge research into cleaner and quieter airplanes. The $17.6 billion provided in this measure will continue to spur American innovation and keep the U.S. the world leader in space exploration."
Keith's note: Contrary to Charlie Bolden's happy thoughts (he and Rich DalBello have been talking, it would seem), commercial space is strongly hampered by this bill while SLS and Orion are clearly the agency's most important projects - even if they have no approved destination or funded payloads. Congress really does not like the Asteroid Redirect mission and has tried to kill it more than once. Congress has also has cut the new technologies needed to get humans to Mars and elsewhere, and has left the planetary program on a slow road to decline. But Charlie is happy.
Richard DalBello, OSTP: NASA budget for FY14 "pretty darn good": lot of important things protected; on same page as Congress. #aiaaSciTech— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) January 14, 2014
Keith's note: Um, I wonder why DalBello (OSTP Assistant Director for Aeronautics and Space) would say this budget is "pretty darn good"? Among other things, the Administration's request for commercial crew is gutted ($821M requested, $696M offered). At this pace NASA most certainly won't make the 2017 date.
Moreover, NASA can't touch $171M of that $696M until it does a study that certifies that the commercial crew program "has undergone an independent benefit-cost analysis that takes into consideration the total Federal investment in the commercial crew program and the expected operational life of the International Space Station." Guess what: the expected life of the ISS was just extended to 2024 and may take years for all the partners to agree to this. How can NASA possibly make this certification to Congress until everyone is on board with this new extension (or has decided not to continue) - something that won't happen until several years from now? As such, that $171M is going to be in limbo for years - so NASA only has $525M to work with on commercial crew for FY14.
Also, this Omnibus bill only funds space technology at $576M. The White House asked for $742M. The bill has made certain that SLS/Orion funding cannot be touched for anything other than SLS/Orion. So ... where is all the new technology everyone is clamoring for going to come from? And where are the payloads that will fly on Orion and SLS going to come from (the asteroid mission is in limbo too)?
But Rich DalBello thinks it is "pretty darn good".
Appropriators Release FY2014 Omnibus Bill, NASA Does Well, Space Policy Online
"It may not be the full enchilada, but NASA did pretty well all things considered in the proposed FY2014 omnibus appropriations bill released tonight (January 13). Assuming approval by the House, Senate and President, NASA will get $17.6 billion for FY2014, not that much less than its $17.7 billion request. Under some scenarios, NASA could have gotten as little as $16.1 billion, so this is a tremendous improvement."
The Obama Legacy in Planetary Exploration, opinion, Mark Sykes, Space.com
"Now, the Obama Administration is preparing to go after the seed corn of the U.S. solar-system exploration program: its planetary research and analysis programs. Actions to be implemented over the next couple of months will have their primary impact in 2015, when many planetary scientists (primarily younger members of the community) will be forced to find other employment and careers -- and many will not wait. This loss of critical manpower and capability cannot be restored overnight. It will take a generation. ... This restructuring is occurring at the direction of NASA Planetary Division Director James Green. There is no immediate need for it."
- NASA's Starvation Diet For Planetary Science, earlier post
- SMD Planetary Town Hall: Time For Planetary Scientists To Job Hunt, earlier post
- NASA's FY 2015 Budget Process Is About To Get Nasty
- NASA Town Hall, AAS meeting, Tuesday, 7 January 2013, 12:45pm-1:45pm, Potomac Ballroom A
Wow. NASA is currently have a Town Hall meeting and essentially telling planetary scientists to look for new jobs. Wow.— Mike Brown (@plutokiller) December 3, 2013
"Jim Green, the head of NASA's Planetary Science Division, shook things up for planetary scientists this week by announcing a restructuring that will change how the division funds grant proposals. ... That's why some researchers--including Mark Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona--have been railing against the restructuring on Twitter and in the blogosphere. Sykes says the change Green has made is ill-considered because it doesn't take into account the impact on the workforce. "There are many people whose research programs and salaries depend upon successfully proposing to several major programs in 2014," Sykes says. "They have just learned that there will be no opportunity for these programs until 2015. I have had several people tell me that if there is no regular ... call at the regular time in 2014, they will have to look for other employment in a year. There are postdocs whose positions are ending this next year, who would have applied to these programs to get started as independent planetary scientists. They need to find something else to do."
When it comes to planetary science will NASA soon stand for NADA?, Houston Chronicle
"Let's start with a town hall meeting (watch it here) that occurred on Tuesday during which NASA's $1.2 billion planetary science division announced a restructuring of how it funds research and analysis. Restructuring is a nice euphemism here. Due to budget cuts, in essence, NASA officials announced that it would not seek new research grant submissions in 2014."
"But at the town-hall meeting, NASA's Jonathan Rall said that funding proposals in this field are not likely to be due until February 2015. That was the last straw for many researchers who live from grant to grant, because most of their existing funding is likely to expire well before money becomes available for the new Solar System workings area. Outraged scientists vented their frustration in the comments section of the meeting website and on Twitter. "People are upset with not knowing where their next paycheck is going to come from, how they're going to pay the mortgage," says Schmidt."
"Michael H. New: [personal, non-official, comment] The degree to which the field shrinks is driven by the budget and the number of hard-money positions available. Regardless of how PSD's solicitations are organized, when the budget is flat and there are few hard-money positions available, people will be forced to leave the field. [end]"
"The Planetary Science Division announces a virtual town hall presenting the Research and Analysis Program Restructuring. The town hall will be held on Tuesday, December 3, 2013, 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm (EST). A presentation by Jonathan Rall will be followed by a question/answer period. The town hall will be live-streamed with participation available to anyone having Internet access."
Keith's note: Follow comments on Twitter in real time here
Keith's note: From the comments section: "Michael H. New: [personal, non-official, comment] The degree to which the field shrinks is driven by the budget and the number of hard-money positions available. Regardless of how PSD's solicitations are organized, when the budget is flat and there are few hard-money positions available, people will be forced to leave the field. [end]"
New also posted this: "Michael H. New: Do you want us to predict the number of funded PIs in FYxx? A very, very, rough estimate is to take your favorite R&A budget estimate and divde by $125,000 which is not a bad approximation for the overall average annual award size. This estimate, of course, ignores all year-to-year variations in the actual budget and how that propagates from year-to-year."
"The following is a statement from NASA's Planetary Director Jim Green on Tuesday's virtual town hall meeting with the planetary scientific community. During the afternoon call, he outlined and answered questions about the proposed agency restructuring plans to consolidate some of the supporting research and technology activities to ensure a balanced planetary science portfolio for the next decade."
"NASAWATCH: Is SMD management reading what the Twitterverse is saying about this Town Hall? Audience of followers exceeds 100,000 and includes journalists."
"NASA could soon be facing an awful choice. The agency, feeling a budgetary squeeze from Congress, might not be able to fund all its robotic planetary exploration missions after next year. This year NASA received $16.9 billion, which may sound like a lot but, once adjusted for inflation, is roughly what the agency got back in 1986. Just $1.27 billion of that budget goes into funding all robotic exploration in the solar system. And most space policy experts don't see that number going up anytime in the near future. In 2014, NASA will put many of its robotic missions through what's known as a senior review. Administrators will have to decide which of its missions will yield the highest scientific return and may recommend canceling some of them."
Action alert!, Division for Planetary Sciences
"This week we are asking each of you to write letters and make phone calls to advocate for planetary science. This DPS members call to action is being coordinated with a simultaneous call to action for the planetary section members of AGU and GSA, so we have many planetary scientists to draw upon. Please participate regardless of whether you think your Members of Congress care about science or are on the "right" committees. What's most important is getting as many people to contact as many Members as possible. And we encourage you to use social media to promote this call to action to help amplify the message and encourage others to act."
"NASA Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz painted a bleak picture of NASA's FY2014 astrophysics budget today and forecast a future filled with uncertainty. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) may be secure, but the rest of NASA's astrophysics program could have tough sailing ahead. Hertz stressed that the country spends quite a bit of money on NASA's astrophysics portfolio - a total of $1.3 billion "and you can't plead poverty when there's $1.3 billion on the table." Roughly half of that is for JWST, however, which is managed separately from the rest of NASA's astrophysics programs."
Hertz says NASA will NOT implement the education reorg the President proposed. But $ was taken away in '14 req, so have to find the $ now.— Marcia Smith (@SpcPlcyOnline) November 4, 2013
"NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said Thursday that the agency was still assessing the impact of another year of sequestration and its "stifling constraints." Even holding at fiscal 2013 levels would be problematic because it's about $850 million less than the president's request. That would mean deep cuts in space technology, "the seed corn that allows the nation to conduct ever more capable and affordable space missions," Beutel said. It also would impede NASA's Commercial Crew Program to use private companies to carry astronauts to the International Space Station by 2017."
The Government Shutdown Was Temporary, Its Damage to Science Permanent, Scientific American
"In many ways the federal government shutdown was a huge, unplanned experiment in what happens when we give up on science for two weeks. The experiment is now over and the results are still incomplete. But so far, they are ugly."
"Even if the government opens tomorrow, a significant amount of damage has been done," said Mary Woolley, president of Research!America, a nonprofit advocating for science-minded agencies. "This isn't about a few people who can't go to the labs like they're on vacation or something. The whole research enterprise depends on operating 24/7."
"The day before the decisive vote, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), threw a rhetorical double-punch, linking concerns about home-state and international impacts in a plea to end the shutdown. Some "97 percent of NASA employees in Cleveland and Sandusky in northern Ohio have been furloughed," he noted, while Ohio's academic scientists were worried about their grants. "If you are a research scientist ... [and] see these interruptions, if you are furloughed for 3 weeks in October 2013 and then again some time next year ... the most talented researchers are going to walk away, and we are going to lose so much of the edge we have in this country."
"Today Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) introduced legislation to fund the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for Fiscal Year 2014. This legislation is consistent with Congressman Brooks' efforts to return furloughed personnel to work following the government shutdown."
"Congressman Steve Stockman Wednesday joined Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL) to introduce the Keep NASA Open Act. The bill would guarantee NASA functions would continue to be funded should an agreement to fund the government not be reached soon."
Keith's note: Both Brooks and Stockman voted to shut the government down - so they were both for shutting NASA down - before they were against it. But wait - according to this press release from Rep. Stockman last week "Stockman's office meets with JSC employees to support restoring NASA funding" he said "Our calls from JSC employees this week are about nine to one in favor of standing strong against Obama's budget." So, if he was accurate - last week - then he should still be for shutting NASA down - this week - right?
"Among those who spoke at the von Braun symposium was one of Constellation's chief architects, former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. Griffin, who ran NASA from 2005 to 2009, scoffed at the idea that NASA is operating in a budget-constrained environment. "We are in a willpower-constrained environment," said Griffin, who is now the Huntsville-based chairman and chief executive of science and engineering services contractor Schafer Corp. Griffin noted that 50 years of NASA spending, adjusted for inflation, was approximately equivalent to the roughly $800 billion stimulus bill signed into law in February 2009. Meanwhile, Cooke and another former NASA manager took shots at the "flat-is-the-new-up" mantra that has become prevalent among government-relations executives in Washington in the age of across-the-board sequestration budget cuts."
Impact of the Federal Shutdown on Private Industry and the Nation: The NASA-Johnson Space Center Experience, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership
"Before the shutdown, JSC had approximately 3,200 federal employees and 11,000 private sector employees supporting its human spaceflight and exploration mission. As a result of the shutdown, JSC is closed, except for 100 federal and a very limited number of contractor employees who support the International Space Station's operations, which have been deemed critical, or in fed-speak 'excepted services.' For a company, the shutdown means that contract work stops. Employees who work in a federal facility are already home. Employees who work on a contract off JSC property will be furloughed as the respective contracts run out of money. That means about 20% of the 11,000 private sector company employees are furloughed now. About 60% will be furloughed by mid October. Over 90% will be furloughed by November 1. If the shutdown continues, an additional 10,000 people will not have a paycheck. Dozens of companies will have been severely weakened, and an entire support community of small service businesses will be damaged as their customer base erodes. These businesses include, but are not limited to, small disadvantaged businesses, women-owned and service disabled businesses. The short-term harm to workers and their families is incalculable. The longer-term harm to the companies is just beginning to be understood."
NASA researchers protest government shutdown, Palo Alto Online
"I'm supposed to be looking for planets, but I'm not," said Kepler mission scientist Natalie Batalha, whose words inspired the crowd to began chanting, "We love Kepler! We want Kepler!" She added that she would even volunteer her time to continue her work, but she can't. The crowd also cheered for Brian Day, EPO lead for LADDEE, the lunar atmosphere and dust environment explorer, when he said LADDEE had "just entered orbit around the moon." "It's a very interesting story and unfortunately we aren't telling it," he said. "Normally I'd be trying to prevent foreign countries from trying to hack into our data but I'm not doing that right now," said cyber-security expert Matt Linton. He said a "skeleton crew" was still doing that work, but that it would be "insufficient" in the longer term."
In limbo: Shutdown creates long-lasting impacts for NASA's JSC, Houston Business Journal
"At NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, only about 100 of the 3,150 civil servants regularly employed at the center are not furloughed. Hundreds more local contractors working with NASA have been furloughed and more contractor furloughs could come any day, said Tim Budzik, managing director of the Houston Technology Center's JSC campus."
"Our calls from JSC employees this week are about nine to one in favor of standing strong against Obama's budget."
Keith's note: Rep. Stockman voted to shut the government down in the first place - and now he claims that 90% of JSC employees supported that vote?
NASA Will Face Solomon's Choice in 2014, Dennis Wingo
"If a budget in the range of $16.6 billion is what happens NASA will have a major problem maintaining both the International Space Station (ISS) and the SLS/Orion Exploration program. Given that the funds are simply not going to be available to keep the ISS alive and functioning and to fully construct and operate the SLS/Orion system, something has to give. Are we going to have to kill one to insure the other's survival? That is the choice that that is presenting itself - a clear recipe for disaster as far as NASA's human space flight plans are concerned."
Science and the shutdown and a lonely birthday for NASA, PBS News Hour
"If a satellite mission has not yet been launched, work will generally cease on that project," NASA's shutdown plan reads. "The extent of support necessary and the time needed to safely cease project activities will depend on whether any of the activities are of a hazardous nature (e.g., parts of the satellite may need to be cooled)." Work preparing for the Mars MAVEN mission, which was slated for a Nov. 18 launch, for example, has stopped, and could delay the craft's planned mission to Mars."
NASA Hit by Government Shutdown, National Geographic
"Elsewhere at the space agency, the effects of the shutdown will become worse over time, says Keith Cowing of NASA Watch: "If they only lose a few days, then we lose a week of work, but over time there will be a satellite that has a problem or a design change that doesn't get fixed in time and we will see real impacts."
Government shutdown: NASA turns 55 - and turns out the lights, Christian Science Monitor
"Due to government shutdown, we will not be posting or responding from this account. Farewell, humans. Sort it out yourselves," tweeted the operators of NASA's Voyager 2's Twitter account, last night. Meanwhile, the agency's planning for future missions - where to land the next mission on Mars; which asteroid to lasso; and what to do with a future lander on Europe - has gone quiet. The shutdown will put some 97 percent of NASA's staffers on un-paid leave: just 549 of the agency's employees are expected to work, out of its some 18,250 staffers."
"NASA will shut down almost entirely, but Mission Control will remain open to support the astronauts serving on the Space Station."
"If a FY 2014 continuing resolution is not passed before 12:01 AM on October 1, NASA can only engage in activities related to the orderly shutdown of operations and performance of excepted activities. As a required part of a shutdown, employees who will not be performing activities excepted by law will be furloughed and unable to work for the duration of the shutdown, unless recalled for an excepted activity."
Due to the gov't shutdown, all public NASA activities/events are cancelled or postponed until further notice. Sorry for the inconvenience.— NASA (@NASA) October 1, 2013
In the event of government shutdown, we will not be posting or responding from this account. We sincerely hope to resume tweets soon.— Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) October 1, 2013
The US Government is shutting down, but the MPC will remain open for business as usual--the Universe knows nothing of Humans' petty politics— Minor Planet Center (@MinorPlanetCtr) October 1, 2013
"However, prudent management requires that we be prepared for all contingencies, including the possibility that a lapse could occur at the end of the month. A lapse would mean that a number of government activities would cease due to a lack of appropriated funding. It would also mean that a number of employees would be temporarily furloughed. To prepare for this possibility, we are working with our General Counsel and our Chief Financial Officer to update our contingency plans for executing an orderly shutdown of activities that would be affected by a lapse in appropriations."
NASA Ames Federal Employees Union Memo: Potential Shutdown Looming Yet Again
"With the turmoil of the DOI snafu and its 4-day delay in paychecks fresh on our minds, you need to be acutely aware that a shutdown could have a much bigger financial impact on you and your family, especially given that we would not likely receive retroactive pay as we did after the shutdowns of the 1990's. Please act accordingly and keep some funds in reserve, if you possibly can."
"Having trouble getting excited about NASA's planned mission to redirect an asteroid? Maybe William Gerstenmaier can help. "Turn off your logical side and turn on your touchy-feely side, the one you almost never use," Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, told attendees of an aeronautics and astronautics conference Wednesday in San Diego. "Then jump up and down and do some break-dancing. We're going to grab a space rock and we're going to move it!"
Keith's update: Response from HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier to NASAWatch: "We provided an hour on technical details, reasons and logic for the asteroid mission. The mission fits well with expanding experience in beyond low earth orbit. We showed charts that show how this mission supports Mars. We also had discussions on this mission supporting commercial asteroid activities. The logic, rational, and feasibility were covered in a detailed manner. I added a flip comment at the end. This is predominately what the LA times picked up. They might have understood the humor intended. The web cast and briefing show the thoughts and work that the teams have put into a very creditable mission. Other articles capture the technical discussions and logical points well."
Keith's 12 Sep note: This is typical of NASA's increasingly baffling asteroid mission PR strategy. Since no one at NASA (starting with Charlie Bolden) is able to give a clear reason why NASA wants to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to go grab an asteroid and move it to lunar orbit, they just skip "the logical side" and go for "the touchy-feel side". Now they want you to just "jump up and do some break-dancing". In other words, don't worry - be happy.
JWST, Commercial Crew Spared Cuts in NASA FY2013 Operating Plan, Space Policy Online
"With only six weeks left in FY2013, Congress and the Obama Administration finally reached agreement on NASA's FY2013 operating plan that details how the agency will spend the money appropriated by Congress. Although the agency was subject to across-the-board cuts of about 7 percent that were to be applied proportionately to all its activities, at least two projects were spared those cuts -- the commercial crew program and the James Webb Space Telescope."
Finally, an FY13 NASA Planetary Budget, Just 11 Months Late, Planetary Society
"The FY13 budget approval was especially messy this year because Congress failed to pass a final budget until last spring (around six months late). The budget was then automatically cut through a process known as the Sequester. The Administration then reportedly proposed larger cuts to the planetary program to spare other parts of the NASA budget the effects of the Sequester. Congress reportedly rejected that division of cuts, resulting in negotiations and the final budget supplied to Space Policy Online.
Videoconference providers see uptick in federal demand, Washington Post
"NASA, for instance, estimates that it will reduce its travel costs by about $21 million for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. Although not all the savings can be attributed to videoconferencing, "we do look to use that medium to allow our managers, scientists and engineers to be able to still participate in events when being there in person isn't possible," NASA spokesman Allan Beutel wrote in an e-mail. Last month, NASA held its first Google+ Hangout news briefing on its Interstellar Boundary Explorer satellite. It "let our scientists present the IBEX mission's latest findings and answer questions from journalists and the public at the same time without having to travel to a certain place just to participate in the news conference," Beutel wrote."
Keith's note: Just as NASA is starting to get innovative in the whole world of virtual meetings, NASA also thought it was OK to fly a bunch of JPL folks to DC to go to receptions and briefings on Capitol Hill and the White House to mark the first anniversary of Curiosity on Mars. The rules are clearly not being applied equally.
- AIP Bulletin: Update on OMB Travel Restrictions, earlier post
- Growing Impact of Travel Restrictions, earlier post
- NASA Limits Travel; No Layoff Plans - yet (update), earlier post
- Bolden Cuts Travel; Buys Toy Telescope Models, earlier post
NRC Warns Landsat-Type Data Not Sustainable Under Current Practices, Space Policy Online
"The National Research Council (NRC) today issued its much-anticipated report on how to ensure continuity of Landsat-type land imaging data. The bottom line is that a sustained program is not viable under current mission development and management practices. Instead, the NRC calls for a "systematic and deliberate program" instead of the "historical pattern of chaotic programmatic support and ad hoc design and implementation of spacecraft and sensors" that has characterized the Landsat program to date.
... In short, the report calls for a "systematic and deliberate program with the goal of continuing to collect vital data within lower, well-defined, manageable budgets" to "replace the historical pattern of chaotic programmatic support and ad hoc design and implementation of spacecraft and sensors in the Landsat series.""
At anniversary of Curiosity landing, recommit to planetary science: Adam Schiff (D-CA), Op-Ed Los Angeles Daily News
"One might think that the latest round of draconian cuts are driven by reductions to the federal budget -- and, in turn, to NASA's budget -- necessary to reduce our debt and deficit. But that isn't the case. To the president's credit, NASA's overall budget hasn't been targeted and remains largely flat, a signal achievement when domestic discretionary spending is at its lowest levels since the Eisenhower Administration. Instead, time and again, deficit hawks in the Office of Management and Budget have targeted specific parts of the NASA portfolio for disproportionate cuts, and none more so than arguably the most successful of all NASA's recent achievements -- planetary science.
And for whatever reason, the "crown jewel" of the planetary science program, Mars, is in the crosshairs and the men and women of JPL know it. Last year, as a way to highlight the budget cuts, some workers hosted a bake sale, and in an effort to cut back non-essential programs and activities in the wake of sequestration, popular outreach programs like the JPL's annual open house have been cancelled, as have visits to classrooms and other educational activities."
"A key Senate panel narrowly approved a bill reauthorizing NASA on Tuesday, setting up a showdown with the House over how much money the nation's space program should get to carry out its missions and which ones it should be allowed to execute.
The three-year bill, which now heads to the full Senate, would give the space agency $18.1 billion in fiscal 2014, $18.4 billion in fiscal 2015 and, $18.8 billion in fiscal 2016. NASA received $17.7 billion in fiscal 2013, which ends Sept. 30.
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed the bill 13-12 along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed."
"NASA has received more than 400 responses to its request for information (RFI) on the agency's asteroid initiative, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced Friday.
"Under our plan, we're increasing the identification, tracking and exploration of asteroids, and the response to this initiative has been gratifying," said Garver, speaking at the Space Frontier Foundation's NewSpace 2013 conference in San Jose, Calif. "The aerospace industry, innovative small businesses and citizen scientists have many creative ideas and strategies for carrying out our asteroid exploration mission and helping us to protect our home planet from dangerous near-Earth objects."
Marc's updated note: Members of Congress have been very vocal about their desire that NASA should NOT proceed with the Asteroid Initiative, specifically the Asteroid Redirect Mission. Until Congress is reassured about the merits of the mission, it will be difficult for NASA to proceed.
House and Senate NASA FY14 appropriations comparison, Space Politics
"With the passage on Thursday of the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill by the full Senate Appropriations Committee, it's possible now to compare that bill's funding levels for various NASA accounts with the House version of the same bill and the administration's original fiscal year 2014 budget request (amounts below in millions of dollars)."
House, Senate fund different paths for NASA, Florida Today
"Congressional votes on Thursday provided more evidence the Republican-led House and the Democratic-led Senate have fundamentally opposing views of the space program. Key committees in both chambers approved divergent paths for NASA that will have to reconciled later this year.
The difference is not just about money, though most lawmakers agree there's a significant gap between the $18 billion the Senate Appropriation Committee wants to give NASA in fiscal 2014 and the $16.8 billion authorized by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee."
"We are just never going to agree on this," said Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) midway through an hours-long committee markup yesterday of the NASA Authorization Act of 2013. Grayson's comment reflected the deep-seated division between the Republican and Democratic members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee about the approach that should be taken to funding NASA, and in a larger sense, all federal agencies in coming years.
Yesterday's markup session of this bill to set policy and funding direction for the space agency for FY 2014 and FY 2015 started shortly before noon, and lasted until 5:30 PM, with the committee considering 35 amendments to the bill. In general, the deliberations were cordial, but decisions involving roll call votes were almost always along party lines."
Marc's note: At some point we'll have a compromise but it could be awhile.
Full Committee Markup - H.R. 2687, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2013, House Science Space & Technology
- Commercial Spaceflight Federation Statements on House Appropriations Committee NASA Budget
- Committee Approves Bill to Prioritize NASA's Missions
- Committee Republicans Set NASA up to Fail with Flawed Bill - Positive Democratic Alternative Defeated
- Statement by Rep. Edwards
- Statement by Rep. Johnson
- Statement of Rep. Palazzo: Full Committee Markup Of 2013 NASA Authorization
- Statement of Rep. Lamar Smith: Full Committee Markup Of 2013 NASA Authorization
Marc's note: Yesterday's long NASA Authorization Act of 2013 markup meeting, which was passed, included 35 amendments, available on the full page of this article, of which 10 amendments were approved, 3 withdrawn and 22 defeated. Of the 35 amendments put forward only 1 was by a Republican and was passed.
All of the substantial amendments put forward by the Democrats were defeated and only small changes were approved.
Of note for the historians out there, Representative Kennedy (D-Mass.), related to that other Kennedy, had his Amendment 004 passed which added the following paragraph to the Bill:
"The President should invite the United States partners in the International Space Station program and other nations, as appropriate, to participate in an international initiative under the leadership of the United States to achieve the goal of successfully conducting a crewed mission to the surface of Mars."
NASA's Appropriations Committee Markup, NASA Blog
"Today, the House Appropriations Committee is marking up legislation to provide 2014 appropriations for NASA. While we appreciate the support of the Committee, we are deeply concerned that the bill under consideration would set our funding level significantly below the President's request. This proposal would challenge America's preeminence in space exploration, technology, innovation, and scientific discovery. We are especially concerned the bill cuts funding for space technology - the "seed corn" that allows the nation to conduct ever more capable and affordable space missions - and the innovative and cost-effective commercial crew program, which will break our sole dependence on foreign partners to get to the Space Station. The bill will jeopardize the success of the commercial crew program and ensure that we continue to outsource jobs to Russia.
In the coming months, NASA will continue to work with the Congress to move towards legislation that funds a balanced portfolio for NASA to spur economic growth here on Earth and maintain American preeminence in space exploration."
Marc's note: The next salvo has been launched in the budget battle.
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves $18 Billion for NASA in FY2014, Space Policy Online
"The Senate appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over NASA approved $18 billion for the agency for FY2014 this morning, a significant increase over the level recommended by its House counterpart last week and more than the Obama Administration requested.
The Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee, chaired by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who also chairs the full committee, approved the bill with little discussion in a short markup session. Full committee markup is scheduled for Thursday at 10:00 am ET."
Marc's note: Before you get too excited remember that the House will want to lower the budget. So this is yet just another House-Senate ongoing battle leading nowhere at the moment.
"The Committee recommends $16,598,300,000 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which is $928,430,000 below fiscal year 2013 and $1,117,095,000 below the request."
House Committee Approves Smallest NASA Budget Since 1986, Planetary Society Blog
"The House Appropriations committee, apparently feeling nostalgic for the Karate Kid and warm leggings, just approved the smallest NASA budget (in terms of purchasing power) since 1986.
The subcommittee responsible for NASA's budget approved $16.6 billion for the space agency in 2014. While SpaceNews reported this as the smallest budget since 2007, it's actually much worse if you correct for inflation."
Marc's note: The caveat here is if the NASA Authorization Act of 2013, that the House Subcommittee on Space marked-up earlier this week, doesn't change substantially. What the final Bill will look like is yet to be determined. But even when the Senate weighs in, it appears with the current Congress, and for at least the next few years, you can expect a lower NASA budget. I don't see the White House expending political energy, to truly fight for NASA.
This morning's hearing of the Subcommittee on Space Markup of the NASA Authorization Act of 2013 was a partisan affair with an outcome that surprised no one.
Chairman Palazzo and other Republicans, including a very vocal Mo Brooks (R-Alabama), railed upon the Democrats for the current fiscal mess and said until such a time as the budget is dealt with NASA's budget would be curtailed.
Representative Donna Edwards (D-Maryland) presented her amendment to the Authorization bill that would have increased NASA's funding and while other Democrats used their time to support the amendment, the Republican majority on the committee voted it down 12-9 with all votes being on party line.
One note of interest from the hearing is that Representative Rohrabacher stated he voted for the Bill with the understanding changes would be made that address his concerns before the final Bill goes to the full committee for markup. Chairman Palazzo agreed. We'll have to wait and see what changes are made for the final markup but it doesn't appear that any of Rep. Edwards changes from the amendment will make it into the final Bill.
- Listen to the hearing (MP3).
- The Subcommittee on Space will meet to markup the NASA Authorization Act of 2013 (PDF)
- Statement of Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) Space Subcommittee Markup of
Committee Print, NASA Authorization Act of 2013
- Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) on Edwards Amendment - With Charts (PDF)
- Opening Statement Rep. Donna Edwards Subcommittee on Space Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Subcommittee Approves NASA Reauthorization Bill - Maintains Priority Programs and Provides Consistent Direction to NASA
- Republicans Approve Bill That Harms NASA
The other hearing this morning was the Subcommittee Markup - FY 2014 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill
"Democrats in the House are set to unveil their own NASA authorization bill, which unlike a much leaner Republican proposal due to be marked up June 10 would authorize $18 billion in spending for 2014 -- more than NASA has gotten since 2011.
... The Republican bill would ban an asteroid retrieval mission the Obama administration proposed in April and instead direct NASA to send more astronauts and hardware to lunar space. The Republican bill, which assumes NASA will be subject to across-the-board sequestration cuts for the foreseeable future, also called for shrinking NASA's Earth science program and restructuring NASA management.
The official summary of the Democratic bill mentions none of these things, and directs NASA to only one destination: Mars. The agency would be on the hook to draw up a 15-year Mars road map for Congress, under the Democrats' bill, but it would be entirely up to NASA to decide whether the road to the red planet included detours to the Moon, asteroids or Mars' natural satellites. "
UPDATE: Ranking Member Edwards Introduces Legislation to Authorize NASA, Cites Need to Return Agency to Path of Greatness, Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-MD)
UPDATE July 10: The amendment Rep. Edwards proposed was defeated 11-9 at today's hearing.
Marc's note: There will be two subcommittee meetings on Wednesday related to NASA's budget.
"The House and Senate Appropriations Committees completed action on the FY2014 funding bill that includes the FAA this week. The two took opposite approaches to funding the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). Mike Gold of Bigelow Aerospace calls a substantial cut approved by the House committee "crippling." Conversely, the Senate committee recommended more than the request.
On Thursday, the full House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY2014 Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) bill, making no change to the almost 12 percent cut to AST recommended by its T-HUD subcommittee: $14.16 million instead of the $16.01 million requested. That is roughly 8 percent less than its current funding level."
- Senator Nelson Weighs in NASA Authorization Bill
- Space Development: Going Everywhere and Nowhere
- Hearing Today: NASA Authorization Act of 2013
- FAA Commercial Space Launch Office Deep Budget Cut Possible
- Draft Only: Highlights of the NASA Authorization Act of 2013
Marc's note: After the 4th of July break the budget battle will be back on and it's shaping up to be quite a battle as the House and Senate clash.
UPDATE: Just before the holiday Space News reported that an "undated 35-page legislative proposal -- which also contains many noncommercialization suggestions for Congress to consider -- was crafted by NASA in response to the draft NASA authorization bill unveiled June 19 by the Republican leadership of House Science, Space and Technology space subcommittee.
... An industry source agreed that a NASA authorization bill is far from a certainty this year, and added that a regular appropriation bill is even more unlikely.
Congressional staffers "are telling us to expect an omnibus appropriations [bill] for 2014," the source said June 28."
Marc's note: It's looking more like a stalemate with Congress having forgotten what the word bipartisan means.
"Charles Bolden talked about his experiences as an astronaut and his current duties as NASA administrator. He discussed some of the more than 100 missions he flew over North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia during his career as a Marine pilot flying the A-6 Intruder. He recounted the improbability of an African American being accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy in a time of racial segregation in his home state of South Carolina. He spoke about his final mission into space and the unlikely friendships that he developed with the two Russian astronauts who flew with him. Other topics included the NASA budget, the space shuttle program, and the international space station."
Nelson warns of partisan "chaos" regarding NASA authorization, Space Politics
"Immediately after the House Science Committee's space subcommittee wrapped up its hearing on a draft NASA authorization bill Wednesday morning, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) offered his views on the subject at a Space Transportation Association luncheon on the other side of Capitol Hill. Nelson, chairman of the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, said his committee was working on its own version of a NASA authorization bill that would be ready by mid-July or perhaps sooner, in order to support appropriators."
What we're going to try to mark up is a balanced program," he said, citing progress in both commercial crew development and the Space Launch System and Orion programs, as well as science programs, including the James Webb Space Telescope."
"The Moon!, no Mars!, no Asteroids! Here we are in the second decade of the 21st century and in the NASA, space advocacy, and commercial space worlds one of these three destinations are being touted (largely to the exclusion of others) for their value to science, human exploration, and economic development, but which one of them is the most valuable, the most deserving, of our attention?
This argument is taking place today in the vacuum of space policy that we currently live in without any unifying principles or policy to inform our decisions. Without a guiding policy and sense of purpose that encompasses more than narrow interests and singular destinations it is exceedingly likely that the human exploration and development of the solar system will continue to be an expensive and futile exercise. We must develop a firm moral, technological, and fiscal foundation for this outward move that will attract capital investment, spur technology development, and encourage innovation in a manner that people can understand, believe in, and thus financially support."
Hearing: NASA Authorization Act of 2013
Location: 2318 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, US
Time: 10:00 a.m. ET
Witnesses and Statements
"Three themes run through my testimony today:
- NASA needs a clear and compelling long-term goal. That goal should be to send human explorers to Mars.
- NASA is being asked to do too much with too little. Unless program content can be matched to budget, the result will be wasted effort and delay.
- Our nation's civil space program will be best served by having high-level policy set by the Administration and Congress, and implementation details recommended by NASA engineers, scientists, and managers."
"The dominant strategic issue facing the civil space program is human spaceflight. Today, there is a human spaceflight program but no credible human space exploration strategy. There is much discussion about going to the moon, an asteroid, Phobos, Deimos and Mars; however, there is no credible plan or budget. There are human exploration elements such as SLS and Orion."
Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.)
"The draft bill includes a topline budget of over $16.8 billion dollars and authorizes the agency for two years."
"The Space Launch System is authorized at over $1.77 billion and the Orion crew capsule at $1.2 billion. The SLS and Orion will take our astronauts deeper into space than ever before. I am committed to the success of these assets and ensuring their continued on-time development and appropriate prioritization moving forward. The Commercial Crew program is authorized at $700 million, but let me be clear; this is not a blank check for the Administration. The bill includes several accountability measures and a flight readiness deadline of December 31, 2017. This deadline is not negotiable. NASA must do whatever is necessary in its acquisition model to meet this deadline, even if that means radically altering their current plans."
House Appropriators Want Deep Cut to FAA Commercial Space Launch Office, Space Policy Online
"The House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) will meet tomorrow to markup the draft FY2014 Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) appropriations bill. As drafted, the bill would reduce AST from its requested level of $16.01 million to $14.16 million."
"Mike Gold, Director of D.C. Operations & Business Growth for Bigelow Aerospace, said "These cuts are ill-advised to say the least. At a time when we're depending so heavily on commercial space transportation to do this to the FAA-AST will have serious consequences, causing delays throughout the industry and even potentially putting lives in danger. It's certainly my hope that all of the AST's funding can be restored."
Mars base added to moon plan Politico
"Republicans in Congress are pushing for major cuts across the federal budget, but so far, they're not willing to sacrifice a plan to build a moon colony."
In fact, Republicans on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee are eyeing an even more ambitious goal: building a base on Mars, too.
"... The [NASA] Administrator shall establish a program to develop a sustained human presence on the Moon and the surface of Mars," states a recent discussion draft obtained by POLITICO."
Marc's note: Wow, what can I say, go for it! Oh hold on, there's no budget for this "go-as-we-can-afford-to-pay" plan. The rhetoric out of Congress is at an all time high and who can take anything they say seriously anymore. I suppose the only way to make them accountable, is to vote them out.
"The draft NASA Authorization Act of 2013 penned by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee would make the NASA Administrator a 6-year term appointment and authorize no funds for the proposed Asteroid Return Mission (ARM). A hearing on the draft bill is scheduled for Wednesday.
- Authorizes $16,825,200,000, which is "consistent with the Budget Control Act and FY2013 appropriations." If Congress replaces or repeals the Budget Control Act (which created the sequester) then funding would be added for the International Space Station (ISS), Space Launch System (SLS), and Commercial Crew.
Human Spaceflight - Makes clear that missions to lunar orbit, the surface of the Moon, and Mars are NASA's human spaceflight goals.
- No funding for the Asteroid Rendezvous Mission [alternately called the Asteroid Return Mission or Asteroid Retrieval Mission]
- NASA to study feasibility of extending ISS beyond 2020
- OSTP to lead a strategic plan for ISS utilization by "all science agencies"
- Continued commitment to SLS/Orion; reiterates that Orion is a backup to commercial crew for ISS"
Marc's note: This is a draft only. NASA is moving forward with the Asteroid Initiative at the direction of the White House. The final bill will assuredly look different.
Subcommittee on Space Hearing - NASA Authorization Act of 2013, House Science Committee
The House Science Committee's space subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for 10:00 a.m. ET next Wednesday, June 19 on the "NASA Authorization Act of 2013." The House version of the bill has not been released yet but should be soon and possibly before the hearing.
The scheduled witnesses are:
- Dr. Steven W. Squyres, Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University
- Mr. A. Thomas Young, Former Executive Vice President, Lockheed Martin Corporation
UPDATE: Draft NASA Authorization Bill Nixes Asteroid Retrieval Mission, Space News
"The House Science, Space and Technology Committee has begun drafting a NASA authorization bill that would hold the agency to a top line of about $16.87 billion, bar funding for a planned asteroid rendezvous mission, and divert money for Earth observation into robotic missions to other parts of the solar system, according to an official summary of the bill obtained by SpaceNews.
The bill also would authorize NASA to spend $700 million annually on the Commercial Crew Program -- up from the $500 million Congress authorized in 2010 -- and require the agency to report every 90 days on the effort."
FUTHER UPDATE: NASA Invites Media to Asteroid Initiative Industry and Partner Day (June 18) , NASA
AIP FYI #102: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News - Update on OMB Travel Restrictions, American Institute of Physics
"The OMB recently issued a 3 1/2 page "Controller Alert: Travel and Conferences" document recognizing the important role that meetings play in the conduct of scientific research. The unsigned and undated memorandum advises that the previously announced spending reductions will continue and details implementation procedures for acceptable travel expenses. This alert, which appears on the website of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), states:"
"Space News reported Friday that a long-awaited fiscal year 2013 operating plan for NASA will make some funding adjustments for several key programs, including commercial crew development and planetary science. The plan, not publicly released yet by NASA, would fund commercial crew at $525 million, effectively undoing the effects of sequestration and rescission on the program. Planetary science, which received additional funding even after sequestration and rescission compared to the administration's request, would lose that funding: it would go back to $1.2 billion, the amount originally requested by the administration for FY13. The funds cut from planetary would be redistributed to the James Webb Space Telescope and to earth sciences."
Marc's note: Good news for Commercial Crew, not so much for Planetary Science.
Update: Confirmed: NASA Defies the Will of Congress by Raiding Planetary Science Funding, Planetary Society
"Despite our best efforts and the best efforts of Congress, the implacable thirst to undercut the most visible and successful program within NASA continues unabated."
Marc's note: While I can sympathize with those who support a strong Planetary Science budget I also see the need for Commercial Crew to get the funding it needs. In world of finite resources you can't everything. The only way to please everyone would be a budget increase. But that's not going to happen in the current political climate.
Download This One-Page Summary on the Threat to Planetary Science, Planetary Society
"When we visit legislators or staff members in Congress we always provide them with a "leave-behind" to reinforce our position. This tends to be a one page summary of our reason for visiting, which right now is about stopping the proposed cuts to NASA's Planetary Science Division in next year's budget."
And here's the Planetary Society's solution to the issue: "Implement the science priorities of the NRC decadal survey. Provide $1.5 billion annually (same as FY12) to NASA's Planetary Science Division, a re-balance of less than 2% of NASA's total budget."
ASP Statement Regarding the Obama Administration's GFY14 Budget Proposal Relating to NASA SMD EPO Funding, The Astronomical Society of the Pacific
"The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), speaking from the perspective of 124 years of advancing science and science education, expresses its profound concern over the Obama Administration's fiscal year 2014 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education restructuring proposal. This proposal will drastically reduce NASA's education and public outreach (EPO) effort, including the abrupt termination of all mission-based EPO efforts in NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD). We believe that this action, in NASA and similarly in other science agencies, will significantly damage STEM education efforts--just the opposite of what the Administration intends."
Is NASA about jobs, or actually accomplishing something?, Houston Chronicle
"The diversity of these centers, including sites in populous states like Texas, California, Florida and Ohio, ensures political clout for the agency in both houses of Congress. At the same time, NASA has to continually spread work around all of these centers and keep senators and representatives from the homes of each of the 10 happy. Which is to say, first and foremost, saving jobs."
"... All that costs money, and Bolden says NASA's $16.8 billion budget request gets chopped to just $16.1 billion if the seqester is not rectified. "At the $16.1 billion level, there is no way in the world they can continue to operate a center like JSC at the level of employment that we have right now," Bolden said. Bolden laments this would mean cutbacks at all NASA centers, primarily contractors. But furloughs for civil servants, he confides, could also become necessary."
NASA Operating Plan for FY 2013 to Target Planetary Overall, Cuts Research and Completed Missions, Planetary Exploration Newsletter
"In his FY13 budget request, President Obama proposed the NASA Planetary budget be cut by more than 20% from its FY12 level (From $1.5B to less than $1.2B). Under the initial Continuing Resolutions covering the first half of the fiscal year, the Administration chose to operate NASA Planetary at this reduced level. Congress restored more than $222M of the President's cut in its FY13 appropriation passed on March 21 and signed into law by the President. Congress's action is now being reversed by NASA and others in the Administration through the preferential application of rescission and sequestration cuts of more than 15% to the NASA Planetary Science budget."
"Lawmakers on Thursday urged NASA to be more realistic about developing space technology in light of budget constraints. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) chided NASA for not making the cost of projects clear to Congress and warned the agency that it risked having them axed entirely. Noting the recent exoplanet discoveries by NASA's $591 million Kepler telescope, Rohrabacher noted that Congress nearly shut down a similar telescope due to a lack of funding. "The [National Science Foundation's] Arecibo telescope was actually the first observatory to find evidence of this exoplanet, and we almost closed that down due to lack of funds. And that telescope remains a very important part of the projects that we are talking about," Rohrabacher said."
Continued Sequestration Will Short-Circuit SLS, Aviation Week
"Mikulski and Shelby consider that budget request inadequate, particularly in the funding for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) that is intended to take humans beyond low Earth orbit. NASA wants $820 million to keep at least two competitors in the running for a commercial route to the International Space Station, but many lawmakers would like to see $300 million of that transferred into the $1.385 billion SLS request for fiscal 2014."
Exploring a possible mission to Mars, Washington post
"The Obama administration's 2010 "National Space Policy of the United States of America" requires the NASA administrator to set "far-reaching exploration milestones," including: "By 2025, begin crewed missions beyond the moon, including sending humans to an asteroid. By the mid-2030s, send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth." So, taken literally, the policy does not call for NASA to put astronauts on the surface of the fourth rock from the sun. They'd go to Mars, take a close look from orbit, perhaps rendezvous with one of the small Martian moons, and come zooming home."
"At one point, Bolden teared up and said that "Mars is the Goal". Bolden claimed that he was intent upon going to the White House, "pounding his shoe on the table", and demanding a commitment from President Obama to direct NASA to send humans to Mars. Bolden said that he needs that commitment to allow him to decide what to do (not do) with regard to extending the ISS."
"There is no mention of an Administration committment to a human mission to Mars in the NASA FY 2014 Budget. Either Charlie Bolden never pounded his shoe at the White House - or (more likely) they were not listening when he did."
"The application period for the Mars Revealed teacher training is currently on hold pending NASA Headquarter reviews of NASA education programs. Please check back frequently. Updates will be posted as they become available."
Keith's note: NASA has cancelled the Second Kepler Science Conference, which was to be held at NASA Ames on November 4-8, 2013. This cancellation is now posted on the Kepler Mission web site I am told that the organizers hope to postpone this meeting and hold it again at NASA Ames, perhaps one year later, i.e., November 2014, assuming that the sequestration restrictions on NASA will have been lifted by then.
"The AAS is deeply concerned about the Administration's renewed proposal to cut NASA's Planetary Science Division, this time by $200 million compared to the 2013 level enacted by Congress and signed by the President last month. At this level, the budget precludes a major mission to any planet other than Mars after 2017, and precludes exploration of Europa, a high priority for the planetary science community. The request also threatens the cadence of Discovery and New Frontiers missions, which are a cornerstone of the Planetary Sciences Decadal Survey to ensure balance among mission classes. The U.S. planetary exploration program has a storied history and a compelling plan for the future. The AAS urges the Administration and the Congress to find a path forward that maintains U.S. leadership in planetary science, rather than ceding future exploration of our solar system to other nations."
"In addition, as I have previously stated, at this time, we do not plan to resort to furloughs for NASA employees to meet our spending reductions under sequestration, and there is currently no change to the Agency's existing hiring policy. Centers may continue to transact hires in all categories as planned in their submitted phased hiring plans up to their FY 2013 FTE ceilings. However, the Congress is currently considering NASA's full-year appropriations levels; and, as the legislative process concludes, we will assess the impact of the new funding levels and whether revisions to our current posture are warranted."
Keith's 22 April note: Furloughs loom across the Federal government. While other agencies openly talk about their furlough plans, NASA is not saying anything. Why is that? It has been a month since Charlie Bolden issued this memo and its mention of how NASA viewed furloughs. Nothing has been issued since then.
Keith's 25 April update: Bolden in a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee today: "If we do not come out of sequester for the 2014 budget then we will start to furlough people."