Monday, February 27, 2006

NASA - $olution$

Ok, enough whinging: what should be done about NASA funding?

My immediate worry about the medium term at NASA is not the cuts for next year in the proposed budget, bad as they may be.
I'm worried that Exploration Development is going to eat all of Science's lunch, and dinner, and breakfast.

So, what to do?

Congress should set up a new separate line of funding, so the major categories will be:

Exploration - STS and ISS operation. To ramp down on some schedule and CEV and Constellation development ramp up.

Exploration Development - R&D for Crewed Exploration Vehicle and future Constellation class space craft and exploration hardware

Science and Aeronautics - Space Science and Aeronautics.

Firewall these three categories. Stick in education/outreach, admin and little niche things wherever. But no transfer of funding between the three major categories without Congressional approval.
NASA can ask for how much they think they actually need and want in these categories.

There is NO sensible rationale for Exploration Development to share line funding with Science.
A case could be made to put Aeronautics in with Exploration Development.

THEN: given the funding appropriate for Science, less any Congressionally mandate line items (and, please, pretty please, fund those when you stick them in...) - do a "sense of Congress" that allocations to missions and projects within Science should reflect the priorities and recommendations of the staturory NASA advisory committees. Some disgression for the AA and directors, but some responsibility not to just wing it - they can play with priorities and timelines but not just dump things wholesale 'cause they feel like it.

Keep this funding structure and priority scheme somewhat stable for at least long enough for some students to graduate, or something, without radically changing priorities, again, cutting whatever was the priority last year, or the year before.


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