The House Appropriations Committee has passed its version of the 2007 federal government budget. In it, funding for NASA was cut by $550 million (approximately 3.2%) from the amount proposed by the Bush Administration last February.
S.O.S. Save Our Science Campaign Button. Credit: The Planetary Society
The $16.2 billion budgeted for NASA for 2007 is the same as the amount approved for 2006. To become law, the Appropriations Committee's proposal still must be approved by the full House and Senate.
The Planetary Society strongly opposed the Administration's request for fiscal year 2007 because it had slashed science programs in order to increase funding for the shuttle, the space station, the new Ares and Orion launch vehicles, and lunar programs. The House Appropriations plan accepts the funding cuts to all of these areas, and adds to them even more cuts to space science and to the NASA Exploration programs.
It's a double whammy," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society. "First the science underpinnings to the NASA exploration architecture were removed; now the whole enterprise seems to be collapsing."
The budget includes cuts of $576 million from the Moon-to-Mars program, $94million from shuttle and space station, and $78 million from NASA's Science programs. Spending for Aeronautics was increased above the NASA's request by $163 million, and another $40 million was added to miscellaneous programs.
It is too soon to tell how NASA will deal with the cuts if they are passed by the full Congress. But it does seem that the plans to get humans back to the Moon and on to Mars will at the very least be delayed -- if not outright lost. It also seems that Congress will not restore the deep cuts previously made to space science research and data analysis, astrobiology, or the Earth observations program which, the National Research Council recently warned, could damage our ability to study our own planet.
Last year the Congress had indicated they would restore some of the science funding, but then they failed to pass any budget at all. The entire funding decision has now been put into a "Continuing Resolution" which caps funds for federal agencies at the 2006 levels. The new budget must be passed by February 15, when the interim budget resolution funding the federal government runs out. It is expected that the Senate will pass the Joint Resolution in the first full week of February -- ironically, the same week the Administration proposes a fiscal year 2008 budget.
The Planetary Society will continue the fight to Save Our Science in NASA, and to support the Vision for Space Exploration. We have recently petitioned the President about this in connection with the fiscal year 2008 budget, and we hope to testify before Congress this year in support of space science and exploration.