Obama Budget Includes Funding Boost for NASA
Space shuttle Discovery rests on Launch Pad 39A after a seven-hour rollout from the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 14, 2009. The shuttle is slated to launch no earlier March 12.
Credit: NASA/Troy Cryder.

U.S. President Barack Obama has proposed a funding boost for NASA that provides more support for Earth sciences missions and aviation, while keeping the agency?s three space shuttles on target for a 2010 retirement.

NASA would receive $18.7 billion for the 2010 fiscal year under the budget proposal released by the White House on Thursday. That would be an increase from the $17.2 billion NASA received in 2008 and represents an overall boost of more than $2.4 billion for the space agency when coupled with the additional $1 billion it received in the recent economic stimulus bill.

The budget calls on NASA to complete International Space Station construction, as well as continue its Earth science missions and aviation research. Yet it also remains fixed to former President George W. Bush?s plan to retire the space shuttle fleet by 2010 and replace them with the new Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, which would fly astronauts to the space station and return them to the moon by 2020.

The outline does make room for an extra shuttle flight beyond the nine currently remaining on NASA?s schedule, but only if it is deemed safe and can be flown before the end of 2010.

"The $18.7 billion budget proposal for 2010 is fiscally responsible and reflects the administration's desire for a robust and innovative agency aligned with the president's goals of advancing our nation's scientific, educational, economic and security interests,? said Acting NASA Administrator Chris Scolese in a statement. "This budget ensures NASA maintains its global leadership in Earth and space research, and it advances global climate change studies, funds a robust program of human and robotic space exploration, allows us to realize the full potential of the International Space Station, advances development of new space transportation systems, and renews our commitment to aeronautics."

Here?s a look at the highlights from President Obama?s NASA budget outline for the 2010 fiscal year:

  • Provides $18.7 billion for NASA. Combined with the $1 billion provided to the agency in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, this represents a total increase of more than $2.4 billion over the 2008 level.
  • Funds a program of space-based research that supports NASA?s commitment to deploy a global climate change research and monitoring system.
  • Funds a robust program of space exploration involving humans and robots. NASA will return humans to the moon while also supporting a vigorous program of robotic exploration of the solar system and universe.
  • Funds the safe flight of the space shuttle through the vehicle?s retirement at the end of 2010. An additional flight will be conducted if it can be completed safely before the end of 2010.
  • Funds the development of new space flight systems for carrying American crews and supplies to space.
  • Funds continued use of the International Space Station to support the agency and other federal, commercial, and academic research and technology testing needs.
  • Funds aeronautics research to address aviation safety, air traffic control, noise and emissions reduction, and fuel efficiency.

While President Obama?s budget outline does set aside more funding for NASA, some space exploration supporters were disappointed in its lack of scope.

"The budget proposal for NASA represents a disappointingly small step in the right direction. It is far from what is needed if the U.S. is to stimulate the economy, create more high-tech jobs and hold on to its eroding leadership position in space," said Elliot Pulham, CEO of the Space Foundation, in a written statement. "The proposed budget is a stay-the-course budget, not a budget for stimulus or change. Combined with the lingering absence of a NASA administrator, we are missing a golden opportunity to lead and inspire at a time when leadership and inspiration are crucial."

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