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NASA Unveils FY 2007 Budget Request

Since President Bush announced the Vision for Space Exploration in January 2004 NASA has spent over $10 billion sending seven astronauts into space on one Space Shuttle flight in mid 2005. The next flight is earmarked for mid 2006 by which time the bill for the Shuttle will have risen by another $400 million a month.
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Feb 06, 2006
NASA has unveiled a proposed budget for fiscal year 2007 that strongly promotes the Bush administration�s long-term goals for human space exploration, while requesting modest increases for or postponing the scheduled start of robotic missions.

The request also redirects aeronautical research and reinforces the administration�s determination to retire the space shuttle fleet within five years and extract U.S. involvement in the International Space Station.

The agency�s FY07 request totals $16.8 billion, technically a 3.2 percent increase over last year, but that figure does not include emergency supplemental funding to deal with damage to NASA facilities from Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. Compared with last year�s total, including those funds, the increase is only 1 percent.

The biggest change in the budget involves the space exploration initiative. For FY07, NASA is requesting about $3.1 billion, or a 76 percent increase over last year.

"This budget � demonstrates the president�s commitment to carrying out the vision space exploration, which he articulated from this stage just over two years ago,� Michael Griffin, the NASA administrator, told reporters at a briefing on the budget request. "In perspective,� he added, the $16.8-billion figure is only about 0.7 percent of the overall federal budget and represents "a modest investment to extend the frontiers of space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.�

The NASA request follows the administration�s directives on its major human space program components, including completing the assembly of the ISS using the minimum number of space shuttle flights, until the fleet�s retirement by 2010. At the same time, the funding proposal is geared to launching the new Crew Exploration Vehicle as soon as possible thereafter - and in no event later than 2014 � with the goal of sending astronauts back to the Moon by 2020, and working toward mounting future human missions to Mars and beyond. Lunar exploration mission are expected to resume as early as 2008.

Griffin said the agenda would ensure continued U.S. leadership in human space exploration, "but leadership means setting priorities of time, energy and resources, and leadership means making difficult decisions based on the best facts and analysis available, and one plain fact is that NASA simply cannot afford to do everything that our many constituencies would like us to do. We must set priorities and we must adjust our spending to reflect those priorities.�

One of those priorities involves keeping shuttle flights to the ISS to a minimum by reserving them only for hauling the major components of the station � something no other existing spacecraft are capable of doing. Other missions would be handled by continuing cooperation with the Russians, and perhaps by new commercial efforts, the proposals for which NASA invited last month.

"This budget demonstrates our national commitment to implementing the vision for exploration,� Griffin said. "It supports our goal of bringing the Crew Exploration Vehicle online no later than 2014 and potentially much sooner. It provides over $5.3 billion in funding for NASA�s science missions and $724 million for aeronautics research.�

He said the FY07 proposed budget also provides almost $500 million for programs in science and math education � which President George W. Bush mentioned in his State of the Union address on Jan. 31 � and improving the agency�s financial management systems.

Another example of shifting priorities is the trimming of nuclear propulsion research. "Rather than engaging in them halfway, we have cut back those efforts,� Griffin said, "but because it is important in the long run, we will seek to leverage the work of other nations which have developed small nuclear reactors that could be applied to space.�

Griffin also emphasized that part of NASA�s necessary frugality will involve incorporating existing components of the shuttle program into the effort to develop the CEV. "We don�t want to repeat the experience of ceasing to do Saturn-Apollo and starting up six years later with a different system. We lost a lot of experienced people then, so we�re just going to try not to do that again.�

He said for the base stage of the heavy lifter, NASA is looking at an advanced version of the shuttle main engine, and is exploring ways to update the shuttle tanks and solid-fuel boosters to support the CEV program.

"We�re being chartered by Congress, the administration and the taxpayers to do the most with the least expenditure of resources,� Griffin said.

Other NASA budget request highlights include:

+ $1.6 billion for robotic missions, or 1.8 percent over FY 2006. This figure includes about $90 million for the Phoenix Mars lander, scheduled for launch in August 2007; about $350 million for the Mars Science Laboratory, scheduled for launch in 2009, and about $85 million to continue operations of the twin Mars Exploration Rovers.

+ $1.5 billion for space telescopes, or 0.1 percent over FY 2006, including about $85 million for the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope; about $445 million for the James Webb Space Telescope; $335 million for Hubble operations - including preparations for a shuttle servicing mission sometime during FY 2008 - and nearly $100 million for the Space Interferometer mission.

+ $2.2 billion for Sun and Earth satellites, a 2.2 percent increase, including about $165 million for the Solar Dynamics Observatory; $65 million for continued development through critical design and initial test of Aquarius, a satellite to measure global ocean surface salinity for the first time; $52 million for continued development of the Glory mission; $98 million for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission; $40 million for the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission; $68 million for the Orbiting Carbon Observatory mission; $190 million for general Earth-Sun system research and analysis, and $70 million for the NPOESS Preparatory Project, a mission to collect key measurements to support long-term monitoring of climate trends and global biological productivity.

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Highlights Of The NASA FY 2007 Budget Request
Washington DC (SPX) Feb 06, 2006
NASA's proposed fiscal year 2007 budget calls for a total of $16.8 billion in funding, or a 3.2 percent increase over last year's request. The overall percentage change, the agency said in its budget document, does not include a comparison with the $371.0 million in emergency appropriations provided by Congress in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

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