February 14, 2012

NASA Reveals FY 2013 Budget

Corresponding with the President's 2013 budget proposal, NASA unveiled its vision for the next fiscal year.  Overall, the agency is receiving a $59 million cut.  The FY '13 budget has a larger sum of monies being sent to Human spaceflight initiatives and space technologies.  This comes at the cost to robotic missions.  NASA is going to drop out of the ExoMars Mission (as reported by Space.com).  Earth Sciences missions, however are also seeing an increase in funding.  Additionally, the James Webb Space Telescope is likely to survive to launch. 

Here is NASA's video explaining the new budget (don't expect any statistics):



Space.com also breaks this down pretty well.


Commentary:

What I like: 
  1. Increased funding for human spaceflight, so the US may close the gap between the Shuttle and the first launch of the SLS.
  2. Increased funding for Commercial Spaceflight.
  3. Increased funding for Earth Sciences.
What I Don't Like: 
  1. Overall decreased funding.
  2. Reduced funding for robotic missions.
  3. Lack of a clear commitment and concrete direction for the agency (beyond development of SLS).
This budget is pretty much what I expected to see from the administration in an election year.  The President can claim that he's increasing funding to human spaceflight, while driving down the cost of the agency overall.  The theme of reducing NASA's budget has been talked about by GOP candidates as well, including Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. 

The economics of space have been pretty well studied.  The heyday of Apollo is the most often quoted  figure, where $14.00 was returned for every $1.00 spent.  I don't have figures for today, but I would imagine that the return on investment is somewhere around $7-$10.00 per $1.00 spent. 

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