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NASA: Funding Is Flat, But Earth Science Programs Grow

by Susan R. Morrissey
February 28, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 9

The President’s 2012 request holds the National Aeronautics & Space Administration’s budget flat at $18.7 billion. The agency is not reporting budget breakdowns for 2011. Instead, gains and losses are being measured against the 2010 budget.

The request provides continued support for the International Space Station (ISS), setting its 2012 budget at $2.8 billion, a 22.8% increase from 2010. The support would allow expanded use of the station’s research capabilities. The request also outlines a plan for research oversight by a nonprofit organization.

Earth science programs would also see growth—increasing 24.9% from 2010 to $1.8 billion in 2012. This boost would enable continued development of Earth-observing satellites such as the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, which would provide information about the planet’s carbon cycle, and the Ice, Cloud & Land Elevation Satellite-2, which is an orbiting laser altimeter.

Funding for the space shuttle will drop significantly. The shuttle is set to fly its last mission this summer, and then the program will be ramped down. Therefore, the budget slates $665 million for the program in 2012, a $2.4 billion drop from 2010. These funds will go into other programs.

To replace the shuttle, the 2012 budget initiates the development of a heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule by providing $1.8 billion and $1.0 billion, respectively. The budget also includes $850 million to support the partnership with the commercial space industry to provide astronaut transport to ISS.


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