Thursday, April 07, 2005

Moe Nasa Woe

So what is causing the squeeze at NASA?
Well, there's a nice summary at Partly it is a 1% clawback to avoid total budget overflow fed-wide; partly it is the $450 million on pork earmarks (?!!) and
partly it is a $300 million shuttle return to flight underfunding. But it is also reprogramming to bring LRO back to speed even though Congress cut it to minimal life support, and Prometheus and CEV need start-up too (although JIMO, which was to be the lead off Prometheus mission has been cut, and Prometheus is soliciting for a first flight mission - Prometheus is the nuclear solar system cruiser, fission powered electric propulsion, high impulse, high power, low thrust and long duration. Essential for long term duration exploration of the outer system, but currently there'd be no way to actually get it to off the surface in the first place since there is no real heavy launcher in the US inventory...). All worthy projects. All underfunded.

Basic problem (beyond the insanity of the pork) is exploration has several new starts that need to start now, not next year or the year after, and no adequate funds to actually get them going. Which is why the exploration side needs to siphon funding out of the science side. Private prediction - NASA HQ needs more funding still, I bet Earth Observation gets it next, some quiet friday afternoon when the media is sleeping and no one is reading Aeronautics has no more to give (Ames apparently is planning on 1/3 cuts) and space science will get a breather until next year.

In the meantime, Calvert, new House sub-committee chair, has endorsed a no-repair deorbit of Hubble. Good start, eh?

I'll think of something cheerful again tomorrow.


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