NASA gets new funds for space shuttles and moon mission
WASHINGTON (AFP) Feb 02, 2004
The new US public budget unveiled Monday gives a big boost to spending on efforts to get the US shuttle back in space and to start moves to get manned missions to the moon and Mars.

Funding for the National Aeronautic and Space Administrtion (NASA) in fiscal 2005 will rise by 5.6 percent to 16.2 billion dollars.

The 866 million dollar increase for the year starting October 1 comes after a decade of stagnation for the space program. Most other government departments saw funding fall. NASA's boost almost rivals defense spending -- the other priority of President George W. Bush -- which was scheduled to rise by seven percent.

Bush's budget presented to Congress would help fund the return to space of the US space shuttle program, which was grounded after the explosion of the Columbia shuttle on February 1, 2003.

Spending on space flight programs was to rise to 6.674 billion dollars compared to 5.875 dollars in 2004, a 13.6 percent increase.

The budget for human space exploration was to reach 8.5 billion dollars, an increase of 13.3 percent over the current 7.5 billion dollars.

Bush last month announced the retirement of the shuttle program in 2010, as he unveiled a far more ambitious program, to include new manned flights to the moon from about 2015. This would be a launchpad for manned missions to Mars further down the road.

NASA is to resume a full program of shuttle launches later this year.

The administration wants construction of the orbiting International Space Station finished by 2010 when the United States will withdraw from the project.

To accomplish that, the remaining shuttles -- Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavor- - will often be on standby simultaneously, with a total of five missions per year before they are consigned to a museum.

NASA will also have to finance the launch of research into the replacement for the shuttle.

"NASA will invest in new space transportation systems that will enable travel to the moon and beyond," said the budget.

The agency will "also engage in research on long duration space flight's impact on human physiology and will develop ways to increase the sustainability of humans in space."

The budget also allows funds for "demonstrations of space nuclear power and advanced propulsion technologies and other breakthrough exploration systems".

Exploration systems will get 1.85 billion dollars in 2005, up from 1.6 billion dollars in 2004.

The total amount to be spent on human exploration of space will rise from 7.5 billion dollars in 2004 to 8.5 billion dollars.

NASA's scientific research, particularly on Earth, is the main loser in the new budget. Its allocation falls to 7.69 billion dollars from 7.83 billion dollars in 2004.