Issue Date: February 27, 2012
NASA: Plan Scales Back Mars Exploration Activities
The President proposes a slight drop in funds for the National Aeronautics & Space Administration in fiscal 2013. The $17.7 billion request—down 0.3%, or $59 million, from 2012—builds on the agency’s current space infrastructure and prioritizes technologies and capabilities for future space travel.
The proposed budget, however, also includes cuts in areas such as planetary science and astrophysics to balance the requested increases. “Tough choices had to be made,” NASA head Charles F. Bolden Jr. said at the budget rollout.
One area that would see funding growth is Earth science. Some $1.8 billion, up 1.4%, would support NASA’s fleet of Earth observation spacecraft aimed at collecting data on climate change, the environment, and natural disasters. The 2013 budget also would provide $628 million, up 21% from 2012, to get the James Webb Space Telescope on schedule to launch in 2018.
For human space exploration, the budget proposes $830 million to develop commercial capability to transport crew to the International Space Station. The amount would be more than twice the $406 million the program received in 2012. The budget also would provide $2.9 billion for the continued development of a deep-space crew capsule and a heavy-lift rocket to launch humans into space. That amount is down about 7% from the 2012 level.
To balance the requested increases, NASA proposes to streamline agency operations and to cut funding of the Mars robotic exploration program by nearly 40%, to a total budget of $361 million. The request would also end plans for the ExoMars mission, a joint effort with the European Space Agency to explore the red planet.
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