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House Panel Recommends Increasing NASA and NOAA Budgets

WASHINGTON ? A Houseappropriations subcommittee voted June 11 to give NASA and the National Oceanicand Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) more money for 2008 than the White Housewas seeking for either agency.

Specifically, the panel approved $17.6 billion for NASA,some $290 million above the agency?s request.

NOAA would get $4 billion next year, or about $200 millionmore than it had sought.

The NASA and NOAA funding was included in a $53.6 billionspending bill that cleared the House Appropriations commerce, justice andscience subcommittee June 11. The bill must still clear the full HouseAppropriations Committee before it can go to the floor for a vote. A companionbill has not yet been introduced in the Senate.

The extra money, however, did not come without conditions.NASA would have to spend every penny of that windfall ? and more ? on science,aeronautics and education and would be prohibited from funding any effortsaimed at sending humans to Mars.

NOAA, meanwhile, would be expected to continue developmentof some climate sensors dropped from the National Polar-Orbiting OperationalEnvironmental Satellite System program last year amid massive cost overruns.

According to the subcommittee?s press release, the billprovides:

  • $5.3 billion for NASA?s Science Mission Directorate, orabout $180 million more than requested
  • $690 million for NASA?s Aeronautics Research MissionDirectorate, or about $150 million more than requested
  • $218 million for NASA education programs, or $64 millionthan requested.
  • $3.9 billion for NASA?s Exploration Systems MissionDirectorate, the same as NASA?s request.

No budget figures were given for NASA?s Space OperationsMission Directorate. A source familiar with the bill said Space Operations,which includes the space shuttle and international space station programs, tooka hit to help cover the aeronautics, education and science increases not paidfor by the extra $290 million the subcommittee added to the bill for NASA.

At least some of the additional NASA science money,according to the release, is to be used ?for the development of several earthscience missions at NASA.?

The bill itself was not released pending its considerationby the full committee perhaps as early as this week. However, according to thesubcommittee?s June 11 press release, ?the bill language also continues amoratorium prohibiting NASA from implementing a reduction in force and fromfunding any research, development or demonstration activity related exclusivelyto Human Exploration of Mars.?

?NASA has too much on its plate already, and the Presidentis welcome to include adequate funding for the Human Mars Initiative in abudget amendment or subsequent year funding requests,? the press release says.

It is not clear what practical effect the Mars moratoriumwould have on NASA since the agency?s near-term focus is on fielding by 2015spacecraft and rockets designed to replace the space shuttle and enable humanmissions to the Moon by 2020. NASA officials have said they do not foresee theUnited States embarking on human missions to Mars any earlier than 2030.

 

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