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Environment

NASA: Support To Enable Future Asteroid Mission

by Susan R. Morrissey
April 22, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 16

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Credit: National Aeronautics & Space Administration
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Credit: National Aeronautics & Space Administration

President Obama is proposing a slight drop in funds for the National Aeronautics & Space Administration in fiscal 2014 as compared with 2012. The $17.7 billion request—down 0.3% from 2012—reflects the fiscal realities while better aligning the agency’s activities to meet the President’s challenge of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s.

As a result, the proposed budget includes cuts to areas such as planetary science and astrophysics to balance requested increases in other areas such as exploration and space technology. NASA’s education funding is also being cut, but this is due to a proposed consolidation of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education efforts across the federal government.

“The President’s fiscal year 2014 budget ensures that we, the U.S., remain the world’s leader in space exploration and scientific discovery for years to come, while making critical advances in aerospace and aeronautics to benefit the American people,” said NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. at the agency’s budget briefing.

Under the proposed plan, NASA would fully fund efforts to develop new spacecraft both in-house and by third parties. The budget provides $2.7 billion to develop its own next-generation deep-space crew capsule and heavy-lift rocket. And $821 million is provided to support NASA-sponsored commercial efforts to develop transports to the International Space Station.

The agency also announced it will initiate planning for a human asteroid mission, which is targeted to take place before 2025. In addition, the budget provides funds for another Mars rover. For ongoing activities, the budget maintains support for rovers and orbiters already on or near the Red Planet. The budget also supports the MAVEN mission, which is set to launch in November to study the martian upper atmosphere, and the InSight mission, a Mars rover that is scheduled to launch in 2016 to probe deeper into martian soil.

To better study our own plant, the President provides $1.8 billion in 2014. This funding will maintain U.S. weather and climate-change modeling capabilities and will support R&D, airborne science, and technology development. The 2014 budget also slates $658 million to keep the James Webb Space Telescope on schedule to launch in 2018.

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