WASHINGTON -- Efforts to replace the space shuttle fleet with new Moon-bound spacecraft would receive big spending increases under NASA's 2007 budget request, while nearly every other part of the U.S. space agency's budget would be held flat or decline.
Overall, NASA's budget would rise just 1 percent, or about $170 million, under the 2007 request the White House sent to Congress today. NASA officials, however, are quick to point out that the $16.792 billion budget request amounts to a 3-percent increase if $350 million in hurricane-recovery money Congress added to NASA's 2006 budget is left out of the equation.
The big winner in NASA's 2007 budget request is the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, which is responsible for developing the Crew Exploration Vehicle, two new launchers and the lunar landers needed to return astronauts to the Moon by 2020. Its budget would rise 30 percent, or $928 million, in 2007 to $3.978 billion -- nearly $300 million ahead of previous budget forecasts.
NASA officials say the agency still expects to field the Crew Exploration Vehicle in 2012 but no later than 2014, the deadline President George W. Bush set when he called for retiring the shuttle and building a replacement spacecraft that could ferry crews to the international space station and eventually carry astronauts to the Moon.
NASA is asking for $4 billion for the space shuttle program for 2007, about $700 million less than the agency expects to spend this year as it scrambles to ready Discovery for its second flight since the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
International space station spending, meanwhile, would rise slightly to $1.8 billion in anticipation to being back to assembling the orbital outpost after a hiatus of longer than three years.
In sharp contrast to NASA's previous budget plan, the agency's Science Mission Directorate -- which builds and operates planetary probes, space telescopes and Earth-observing satellites -- would see its budget increase just 1.5 percent to $5.33 billion in 2007 and then level off to 1-percent annual increases thereafter. NASA last year forecast that science spending would rise 8 percent to 9 percent annually through the end of the decade.
Aeronautics spending would fall to $724 million, a $160 million drop.