Planetary Society Encouraged by Proposed NASA Budget

Planetary_Society_LogoPASADENA, Calif., February 11, 2016 (Planetary Society PR) — In response to U.S. President Obama’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Budget Request, The Planetary Society issued the following statements from Bill Nye, CEO, and Casey Dreier, director of space policy:

“The President’s recent budget request is catching up with recent congressional actions in support of NASA. It’s especially good to see the increases for space science. But we can do more. The nation asks so much of NASA, and NASA delivers. NASA is maintaining operations aboard the space station, while it’s actively exploring the Solar System and distant reaches of the cosmos—all while planning missions to send humans to Mars. The Planetary Society urges Congress to continue their support of NASA in 2017 by allowing its budget to increase above inflation. The world is in love with space exploration, and NASA is the best brand the United States has. With the right resources, NASA can lead the way deeper into space.”

– Bill Nye, CEO, The Planetary Society

“While it is satisfying to see the White House increase its request for NASA’s Planetary Science Division to $1.52 billion, it still represents a cut to the program’s current funding level. The Planetary Society believes that all of NASA’s space science divisions deserve support, even Planetary Science, which has now experienced five proposed budget cuts in five years. After the stunning successes of last year’s Pluto flyby, the exploration of Ceres, and the confirmation of flowing water on Mars, the nation should not back away from planetary exploration now.

“We urge Congress to continue their trend of enacting NASA budgets above the President’s request. Using the FY 2016 congressional budget as a baseline going forward would help sustain NASA as the world leader in human spaceflight, robotic exploration, space science, aeronautics, and fundamental scientific research.”

– Casey Dreier, director of space policy, The Planetary Society

NASA FY 2017 Budget Request Fact Sheet

NASA LOGOThe President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget
Carries out an ambitious deep space exploration program
and continues the Nation’s Journey to Mars.

Actuals FY 2015: $18 billion
Enacted FY 2016:  $19.3 billion
Requested FY 2017:  $19 billion

NASA’s budget advances the Nation’s space exploration plan and ensures our nation remains the world’s leader in space exploration and technology, aeronautics research and discovery in space and Earth science. The budget supports developing the technologies that will make future space missions more capable and affordable, partnering with the private sector to transport crew and cargo to the International Space Station, continuing the development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System and Exploration Ground Systems that will one day send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit. The budget also keeps the Webb Telescope on track for a 2018; builds on our scientific discoveries and achievements in space; and supports the Administration’s commitment to serve as a catalyst for the growth of a vibrant American commercial space industry.


Lamar Smith on Obama’s Budget: I HATE It!

Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith

“This administration cannot continue to tout plans to send astronauts to Mars while strangling the programs that will take us there. President Obama’s FY17 budget proposal shrinks our deep space exploration programs by more than $800 million. And the administration once more proposes cuts of more than $100 million to the Planetary Science accounts, which have previously funded missions like this past year’s Pluto flyby. At the same time this proposal shrinks space exploration priorities within NASA’s budget, it disproportionately increases Earth Science accounts to more than $2 billion – a seventy percent increase since 2007. This imbalanced proposal continues to tie our astronauts’ feet to the ground and makes a Mars mission all but impossible. This is not the proposal of an administration that is serious about maintaining America’s leadership in space.”

— Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)
Chairman, House Committee on Science, Space & Technology

Smith’s statement is reproduced in full after the link.

House Members Want NASA to Develop Human Space Exploration Roadmap

Artists concept of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission capturing an asteroid boulder before redirecting it to an astronaut-accessible orbit around Earth's moon. (Credit: NASA)
Artists concept of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission capturing an asteroid boulder before redirecting it to an astronaut-accessible orbit around Earth’s moon. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (House Science Committee PR) – On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Space held a hearing titled,Charting a Course: Expert Perspectives on NASA’s Human Exploration Proposals.” Witnesses shared their viewpoints on NASA’s human space exploration plans – including a human mission to Mars – and the challenge of keeping programs on track through changing presidential administrations.


White House Opposes Provisions of SPACE Act

H.R. 2262 — Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act of 2015 (Rep. McCarthy, R-CA, and 12 cosponsors)

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.


Cruz Control: Texas Senator Demonstrates Why People Don’t Want Him Leading Science Committee

Sen. Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz

There was a great deal of hue and cry earlier this year when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took over the newly renamed Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. [Science-Denying Troglodyte Ted Cruz to Chair Senate Science Subcommittee]

Critics view the far right Tea Party favorite as pretty much of an idiot when it comes to science. [8 Dumb Quotes About Science From New NASA Overseer Ted Cruz] They worry about his past efforts to cut NASA’s budget, and what they view as his dishonest skepticism about the realities of global warming. [Ted Cruz to Oversee NASA: What Does His Record Tell Us?]

It didn’t take long for critics’ worst fears to be born out. Last Thursday, Cruz decided to engage NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a debate over the space agency’s core mission. The consensus is that Cruz got the worst of the exchange, in the process demonstrating a lack of knowledge about what NASA’s been doing for the past 57 years.


Results of the NASA is Not Nominal Poll

NASA_Not_Nominal_Reasons_PollIn a recent poll, Parabolic Arc’s readers had very strong opinions about why the U.S. space program is not nominal.

Congress: ‘enuf said topped the list with 121 votes. Although readers were not give the opportunity to explain why they thought the venerable was doing a bad job, it’s most likely that it has repeated refused to fully fund requests for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Voters were not quite as critical of the Lack of White House leadership in space, which nonetheless came in third with 83 votes.

Just above that was Space Launch System: Deep Space Money Hole, with 89 votes.

Orion: a vehicle to nowhere garnered 56 votes or 31 percent of the total, indicating less criticism of that program than the rocket that will carry it into deep space.

NASA’s Lame ass Asteroid Retrieval Mission and No focus on return to the moon were tied for fifth place with 47 votes each, which represented 26 percent of the total vote.

Too many projects, too little money came in just below those two reasons with 46 votes.

Only eight voters believed that commercial crew is a dead end.

A big thank you to all those who voted. If you haven’t already done so, please vote in our current poll about Elon Musk’s fear of the upcoming Robocalypse.

Remember: Vote early! Vote often! Just vote, dammit! Vote!

Administration Opposes $220 Million Spending on New Rocket Engine

Credit: Matt Wade
Credit: Matt Wade
The Obama Administration has issued a statement opposing a House spending proposal that would allocate $220 million for the development of a new rocket engine to replace the Russian RD-180 motors used on ULA’s Atlas V launch vehicle.
The Administration objects to the unrequested $220 million for a new rocket engine. An independent study recently concluded that such a program would take eight years to field and could cost $1.5 billion with another $3 billion needed to develop a suitable launch vehicle. This approach prematurely commits significant resources and would not reduce our reliance on Russian engines for at least a decade. With a goal of promptly reducing our reliance on Russian technology, the Administration is evaluating several cost-effective options including public-private partnerships with multiple awards that will drive innovation, stimulate the industrial base, and reduce costs through competition. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress on this issue once the analysis is complete.
The funding is included in the House’s proposed FY 2015 defense budget.

Administration Opposes Senate Provisions on Commercial Crew, Europa Mission

Credit: Matt Wade
Credit: Matt Wade

In a policy statement issued today, the White House took issue with two objectives near and dear to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL): crippling NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and boosting its Space Launch System (SLS).

“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,” the Administration said in the statement, which covers the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2015.


Senate Boosts NASA’s Budget

NASA LOGOThe Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a FY 2015 budget for NASA that totals $17.9 billion. The amount $439 million above the Obama Administration’s request and $254 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. The spending plan is also in line with the $17.896 billion approved by the House.

Details on the Senate spending measure are still a bit sparse, but the Commercial Crew Program would receive $805 million, which is less than the $848 million requested by the Obama Administration but more than the House’s allocation of  $785 million.

Senators reportedly left in language inserted by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) that could drive up the cost of the Commercial Crew Program. See the Space Access Society alert for more details.

The Space Launch System would received $1.7 billion. The House has approved $1.6 billion for the heavy-lift rocket, while the Administration wants to spend $1.38 billion.

The International Space Station would received $3 billion, which is in line with what the House approved and the Administration proposed. Senators approved $5.2 billion for NASA’s Science program, a boost of more than $200 million over the Administration’s request.

AIA Supports Lifting of Export Restrictions on U.S. Space Systems

aialogosmTogether with Ex-Im Reauthorization later this year, the Interim Final Rule will open the door to increased international space-related sales.

Statement by Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO Marion C. Blakey 

Arlington, Va. — The Aerospace Industries Association applauds the Administration’s issuance of revisions to Category XV of the U.S. Munitions List (USML) that will end excessive restrictions on space systems like commercial satellites and related articles.  After a six month delayed implementation, the interim final rule will remove many of these less sensitive technologies from the USML and place them under the more appropriate controls of the Commerce Control List.


Proposed NASA Budget Praised, Criticized

The International Space Station, backdropped by the blackness of space and the thin line of Earth's atmosphere. (Credit: NASA)
The International Space Station, backdropped by the blackness of space and the thin line of Earth’s atmosphere. (Credit: NASA)

UPDATE: Added Aerospace Industries Association statement in support of the budget.

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation and the Space Foundation have both offered support for President Barack Obama’s proposed $17.46 billion fiscal year 2015 budget for NASA. Meanwhile, the Congressman who represents NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California says spending on planetary exploration missions is too low.

The proposed budget is slightly below the $17.64 billion appropriated for Fiscal Year 2014.  The Obama Administration has proposed supplementing the base budget with an additional $885.5 million from the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative, which would bring NASA spending to $18.4 billion in the upcoming fiscal year.


Mo Brooks’ First Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Kill (Programs in My State)

Artist concept of the SLS in flight. (Credit: NASA)
Artist concept of the SLS in flight. (Credit: NASA)

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) has introduced a measure that would prevent the Obama Administration and any future president from canceling the Space Launch System and Orion crew vehicle programs without Congressional approval while freeing up hundreds of millions of dollars to be applied to those programs.

Bill H.R. 3625 targets terminal liability funds that Orion and SLS contractors are holding in reserve in case the government decides to cancel these programs for convenience. The measure says that “hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are unavailable for meaningful work on these programs.”