Obama's Evil Budget Compromise Threatens Space Science and Civilization
April 20, 2011 • 11:55AM

April 19, 2011 (LPAC)—The budget "compromise" passed by Congress on April 14, and signed by the President the following day, threatens the future of almost all of NASA's programs. The five-month FY11 budget that was passed, cuts $250 million from last year's funding, to $18.45 billion. President Obama has already stated that NASA's budget will remain flat for the next five years, at the $18+ billion level. This is three-quarters of a billion dollars less than Congress authorized last year for FY12, which starts this October 1.

Although, at first glance, it may seem that the $250 million, or even a half-billion-dollar reduction, is not a large percentage of NASA's budget, that margin of funding is what allows programs to stay on schedule, and allows the start of new projects. In addition, the hundreds of millions of dollars that the Administration proposes be taken out of manned exploration to be frittered away in funding private commercial companies, further reduces what NASA can do. To wit:

* NASA's Mars Astrobiology Explorer-Cacher (MAX-C) mission, planned for launch in 2018, is unlikely to happen, considering the projected declining budgets for planetary science, Jim Green from NASA said yesterday at NASA's Advisory Council planetary science meeting. The plan has been for the European Space Agency to launch ExoMars in 2018, to look for evidence of past life on Mars, and for NASA to launch MAX-C to collect samples of Martian soil, to later be brought back to Earth. Now, both ESA and NASA are looking toward redesigning ("descoping") both programs, to combine them into one, rather than two, spacecraft, reducing the mission goals, and the cost. A Mars sample return mission is considered a top priority by the National Research Council, which recommended that NASA pursue MAX-C if it could be reduced from $3.5 billion to $2.5 billion. Green stated that NASA could only spend about $1.2 billion on the mission.

* NASA's next great space observatory, the Webb Space Telescope, which will peer at the univerese in the infrared, as a follow-on to the ground-breaking Hubble Space Telescope, which peered in the optical range, may be pushed back to a 2018 launch. NASA had hoped to get it in to orbit in 2015, but a review of the program last Fall said it needed an extra $500 million to meet that timetable. That increase is not in the 2011 budget.

* NASA has pulled out of two astrophysics experiments that were collaborative with the European Space Agency. The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) was to be the first dedicated mission to search for Albert Einstein's gravitational waves. The International X-ray Observatory was designed to be able to look at the universe through dust and gas clouds. LISA would have cost NASA $1.5 billion over the life of the project, and the IXO, about $3.1 billion.

* NASA's Earth science programs are now under scrutiny by the Republicans, and threatened with large cuts, since these circles stupidly think that any satellite that looks at the Earth, is looking for global warming.

* The precious teams of highly skilled workers and engineers, who have prepared the Space Shuttles for 30 years, are now being dispersed to the wind. United Space Alliance (USA), whose workers train the astronauts, prepare Shuttle payloads, and launch and refurbish the orbiters, announced April 15th the details of the last big round of layoffs in the Shuttle program. After the last Shuttle mission, now scheduled for June, half of the remaining USA workforce, around 2,800 workers, will be gone. In 2009, USA had 10,500 people working in the Shuttle program.

The gap between the end of the Shuttle program and the availability of a replacement vehicle was written in to the Constellation program in 2004, under President Bush. But under Obama, there is not to be any national human space exploration program.