Budget: February 2012 Archives

Let's Double NASA's Budget

Neil deGrasse Tyson to Jon Stewart: "Your Earth is spinning the wrong direction.", io9

"Last night, Jon Stewart had astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on The Daily Show to talk about the his new book, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier. It's a great interview, but the highlight of the conversation definitely came towards the end of the exchange, when Tyson made his case for increasing space funding, causing Stewart to respond with an impassioned call for Tyson's presidential candidacy."

NASA is taking JPL workers for granted, Schiff says, La Canada Valley Sun

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who visited JPL on Wednesday, said the agency will try to restructure its Mars program in order to save jobs and preserve skills developed during past Mars missions. JPL Director Charles Elachi explained that administrators might transfer other projects funded by the 2013 NASA budget to JPL. Schiff said shuffling jobs misses the mark. "I'm not at all comforted by what I hear from NASA," said Schiff. "It's not about substituting other projects to keep people busy. It's about doing things no one else in the world can do. If that talent pool leaves, putting it back together later is going to be darn near impossible."

Op-ed: Don't gut America's planetary science, op ed by Reps. Adam Schiff and John Culberson

"Slashing NASA's budget for exploring the solar system would be a serious mistake that would threaten our nation's hard-won and long- held leadership role, and would come at a terrible time, now that China and other nations are rising to challenge American primacy in space. Meeting that test is good for science and good for America; by exploring other worlds, we remain competitive on our own."

NASA chief pledges Mars help, Pasadena Sun

"Although he offered little detail, Bolden said that NASA will attempt to restructure its Mars program in ways that would save jobs at JPL and preserve its Mars exploration brain trust. "There are a lot of things about going to other planets that nobody knows, except here," said Bolden. "We will be working with folks here at JPL in trying to restructure our robotic Mars exploration program." JPL Director Charles Elachi said the administrative restructuring could involve bringing other NASA work funded under the 2013 budget to JPL, but specific projects have not yet been identified."

Keith's note: I wonder if the White House knows about this. This can't be a real solution i.e. taking work from other NASA field centers and sending it to JPL to offset White House-directed cuts in Mars work - at JPL. Other NASA facilities are facing cuts, why shouldn't JPL? Giving preference to a FFRDC (JPL) over NASA (government) field centers? I don't think so. Also, what sorts of promises are being made to the other centers affected by 2013 budget cuts? This is a zero sum game at the end of the day - Bolden can't promise the same thing to more than one center - or can he? I doubt this idea will ever get pass the "Oops, I misspoke phase. Stay tuned.

American Astronomical Society Issues Statement on President's FY 2013 Budget

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) today issued a statement thanking President Obama for his strong support of science as embodied in his proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2013 but asking him and the Congress to strive harder to maintain a balance of small, medium, and large space missions in astronomy and astrophysics, planetary science, and solar physics. Some provisions of the President's FY 2013 budget, especially a 20 percent cut in NASA's planetary science funding, threaten to undermine the recommendations of recent decadal surveys of these fields by the National Academy of Sciences."

Division for Planetary Sciences Challenges NASA FY 2013 Budget, earlier post

Budget Reactions

Obama wants $2.1 billion for NASA's Florida spaceport, Reuters

"The center's proposed budget increase won't mean more NASA jobs, however. Cabana told reporters he expects Kennedy Space Center's workforce to remain at about 7,500 employees through 2013. That number includes about 2,050 civil servants."

NASA Seeks More Money For Space Technology, Information Week

"NASA's budget request for space technology for 2013 is $699 million, a $124 million--or roughly 18%--increase over last year."

Rep. Rohrabacher Critical of Administration's NASA FY '13 Budget Request

"The administration's FY'13 budget includes almost $1.9 billion for continued pursuit of the SLS Titanic, a 'monster rocket' based on 40-year-old Space Shuttle technology in an attempt to recapture the glory days of the Apollo Saturn V," said Rohrabacher."

Rep. Schiff Statement on Meeting with NASA Administrator

"As I told the Administrator during our meeting, I oppose these ill-considered cuts and I will do everything in my power to restore the Mars budget and to ensure American leadership in space exploration."

Letter to Hillary Clinton and John Holdren: James Webb Space Telescope and our International Commitments, James Webb Space Telescope Advisory Committee (JSTAC)

"In this letter we wish to reiterate to the Administration the importance of JWST to our international partners and of our commitments to them. Through a series of unfortunate cancellations of planned NASA participation in key space science missions (e.g., Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, International X-Ray Observatory, ExoMars) the long-term US collaborative relationship with Europe through the European Space Agency has deteriorated substantially."

Keith's note: NASA cancels U.S. participation in ExoMars (and its associated international committments) to cover Webb Space Telescope cost overruns, and now the Webb community is citing this cancellation as a bad precedent - and then use this as an excuse to generate more support for Webb? This is both hilarious - and incredibly duplicitous.

In Search of Charlie Bolden's Solid Plan for NASA

"According to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden in yesterday's budget press conference, "The time for debate about our future is over. We have a solid plan, a sustainable plan, and we are moving out to implement it, opening the next great chapter of American exploration." "Solid plan"? Quite the contrary."

Why Did NASA's Administrator Refuse To Answer a Simple Budget Question - At A Budget Briefing?

"NASA held a press briefing today regarding the FY 2013 budget. What's rather troubling is how little budget information NASA Administrator Bolden Charlie Bolden actually discussed and how many substantive questions he dodged during this briefing. The most blatant example was when Bolden was asked if he could list the projects and missions that were cut in order to pay for James Webb Space Telescope overruns."

Keith's note: Questions at this afternoon's budget press conference can be tweeted with the hashtag #asknasa. NASA will try and answer some of them. Here's my question:

"Mr. Bolden: one of features of this budget are dramatic cuts to NASA's planetary program - specifically, to Mars exploration. This comes at a time when NASA has to cover $1 billion in cost overruns for the Webb Space Telescope. Meanwhile, Mars Science Laboratory is on its way to Mars, itself a billion dollars over budget and 2 years late. Space Station, NPOESS, and other projects with multibillion dollar cost overruns orbit overhead. When is NASA going to stop rewarding large projects that overrun by paying whatever it takes to complete these missions - thus taking funds from other missions that are either on budget or yet to be built? Why is it that after 50 years of space exploration NASA's ability to predict and control costs on large programs seems to be decreasing - not increasing - as one would expect as the agency gained experience?"

FY 2013 NASA Budget Released

NASA's FY 2013 Budget: A Quick Snapshot, SpaceRef

"This budget is just the beginning of a conversation. The past several years have seen budgetary roller coaster rides as the new norm. Add in possible future cuts due to other, broader budgetary issues, congressional push back, and the extra combustible politics that go with a re-election, and mush of what is in this proposed budget will morph before all is said and done. That said, it is clear that NASA still hasn't figured out what it wants to do - or why. Absent a clear, strategic plan, any budget is O.K. since you can just change the briefing charts when political winds shift or Congressional hearings loom."

NASA FY 2013 Budget Press Confeence - Full Transcript

"This year, we are trying something a little different. As well as traditional media representatives, for the first time we have invited members of the social media community to be a part of today's presentation, and we will be taking questions via Twitter using the #AskNASA. So we thank everyone for joining us for today's presentation."

Science Pushed to the Brink: Proposed FY 2013 Budget Would Devastate Planetary Science in NASA

"If Congress enacts the proposed budget, there will be no "flagship" missions of any kind, killing the tradition of great missions of exploration, such as Voyager and Cassini to the outer planets. NASA's storied Mars program will be cut drastically, falling from $587 million for FY 2012 to $360 in FY 2013, and forcing missions to be cancelled. The search for life on other potentially habitable worlds -- such as Mars, Europa, Enceladus, or Titan -- will be effectively abandoned."

Red Planet meets red ink: budget ax could chop two NASA Mars missions, Christian Science Monitor

"Overall, the reports suggest that the total budget request for NASA will come in close to this year's budget of $17.8 billion. But the agency is having to absorb significant cost overruns for the James Webb Space Telescope, successor to The Hubble Space Telescope, and has had to do likewise with the Mars Science Laboratory, currently en route to the red planet."

Europe Turns to Russia as NASA Cuts Loom, WS Journal

"The latest budget crunch not only threatens the future of Mars exploration, according to scientists and lawmakers, but separate efforts to explore Europa, one of Jupiter's large moons, and other parts of the solar system where scientists have been looking for past signs of life. Within the past two years, NASA has backed out of two unrelated robotic missions with European space officials."

U.S. Space Science Confronts New Economic Reality, Wired

"Right now, everyone needs to step back a little bit and ask not 'how can I have mine' but 'how can we have ours,'" said astronomer Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute that oversees operations of Hubble and other telescopes."

Keith's note: Among the "citizen journalists" at Monday's press briefing on the FY 2013 budget will be Bethany Jones @AAS_Bethany_J (aka @AAS_CAPP, the John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow for the American Astronomical Society. You'll note that she is being paid by an organization that has a vested interest in supporting funding for both Hubble and Webb - but also all other aspects of space and planetary science.

My favorite tweet of hers is from 1 September 2011: "@NASAWatch Where did you get this information? Or are you spreading vicious rumors?". I wonder ... will Bethany Jones ask a question regarding the funding of the Webb cost overruns or about cutting planetary science? Or both? You see, the AAS membership is on both sides of these issues - somewhat dysfunctionally I might add. Stay tuned. Too bad other organizations with interests in space policy are now being afforded this opportunity.

Questions at this afternoon's budget press conference can be tweeted with the hashtag #askNASA NASA will try and answer some of them.

- AAS Division for Planetary Sciences Express Concern Over Budget Priorities, earlier post
- AAS SPD Memo to AGU Heliophysics Section on Webb Costs, earlier post
- Webb Cost Overruns Concern AAS Members (Update), earlier post

Keith's note: There was supposed to be an embargoed press briefing on the FY 2013 budget at NASA HQ today at 2:00 pm EST. That has now been cancelled. I do not know who cancelled it but Brian Berger at Space News is reporting that this was done on orders from the White House - and that's a good enough source for me. I was not planning on attending this event (I have in the past) since these things tend to be high level, no policy questions allowed, no quotes, and you have to decide between listening to the off the record briefer or furiously write down the budget numbers they flash on a screen (no handouts). Of course, if you attend you are then under an embargo until the budget is released on Monday - and I honor embargoes when I agree to be under them. But now the White House has clamped down on this so its a moot point. That said, I really do appreciate NASA PAO for taking the time to try and do this and for inviting me and others.

NASA Wants A Flat Budget For Fiscal 2013, Aviation Week

"NASA will take only an $89 million cut in its topline spending request for fiscal 2013 compared to this year's operating plan, sources said Friday, but the $17.711 billion NASA budget proposal due out Feb. 13 will axe the joint effort with Europe to return samples from Mars to pay for development overruns on the James Webb Space Telescope."

Scientists say NASA will cut missions to Mars, MSNBC

"Jim Bell, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University who also serves as president of the nonprofit Planetary Society, said "there's some validity" to the criticism of NASA's budgetary record. He said the scientific community "has heard that message" and is trying to focus on the highest-priority planetary projects for the next decade, including missions to Mars. "The community has a responsibility to demonstrate that we can do this within cost limits. ... If there are to be cuts, let's try to make them as fair as possible," he told msnbc.com. "It would seem to be fair if everyone across the board is being asked to scale back. The cuts should be equitable, but I don't think we're seeing that."

Congressman Adam Schiff opposes potential cuts to NASA's planetary exploration program, San Gabriel Tribune

"Schiff described his meeting with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden as "tense." "What I'm hearing that they're proposing will be absolutely devastating to planetary science and the Mars program," Schiff said. "If this is what they have in mind, I'm going to be fighting them tooth and nail."

Scientists say NASA cutting missions to Mars, AP

"Two scientists who were briefed on the 2013 NASA budget that will be released next week said the space agency is eliminating two proposed joint missions with Europeans to explore Mars in 2016 and 2018. NASA had agreed to pay $1.4 billion for those missions. Some Mars missions will continue, but the fate of future flights is unclear."

Keith's note:Meanwhile the James Webb Space Telescope crowd is eerily quiet. They know that the cost being covered for their latest overrun grossly eclipses the cuts that are being made elswhere. Alas, the grossly over-budget and oft-delayed MSL is on its way to Mars while the grossly over-budget ISS orbits overhead.

50 years of doing this - and NASA still can't figure out what things will actually cost?

Ed Weiler Says He Quit NASA Over Cuts to Mars Program, Science Insider

"The Mars program is one of the crown jewels of NASA," says Ed Weiler. "In what irrational, Homer Simpson world would we single it out for disproportionate cuts?" Weiler's resignation in September caught the space science community by surprise. But he says it was the culmination of a soul-sapping and ultimately unsuccessful battle with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on how to accommodate the rising cost of the James Webb Space Telescope within an overall agency budget being squeezed by efforts to reduce federal spending and shrink the deficit. "It all left a very bad taste," Weiler told ScienceInsider this morning from his house in Vero Beach, Florida."

Keith's note: This is sadly hilarious. Of course Ed Weiler's chronic inability to control James Webb Space Telecope's costs is what led to this situation in the first place. So, I guess Ed Weiler quit to protest his own poor job performance, right? Ed also neglects to mention the large cost overrun and 2 year delay in MSL - also under his tenure. I guess that did not affect things either, right Ed?


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