Planetary exploration hit in NASA budget
The Orion deep space exporation vehicle, seen in January.
February 13th, 2012
04:49 PM ET

Planetary exploration hit in NASA budget

So, NASA’s proposed budget for 2013 is sort of a good news, bad news proposition.

The good news is that it could have been a lot worse. If it stands, the space agency will have just under $18 billion, a little less than last year.

So what’s the bad news? Planetary exploration would fall by $300 million. As expected, Mars exploration is getting hit hardest, a whopping $226 million cut, about 38%. In its budget statement the agency says, “NASA is taking a fresh look at robotic Mars exploration.”

A joint Mars mission with the European Space Agency for 2016 is out. Another planned for 2018 with ESA is off the table, too. During a news conference held on Monday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “tough choices had to be made.”

But at the same time, the space agency insists, “NASA remains interested in working with ESA.”

For many in the science community, this is a terrible development. In a statement, the Planetary Society wrote, “this would strike at the heart of one of NASA’s most productive and successful programs over the past decade.” It continued, “If Congress enacts the proposed budget there will be no flagship missions of any kind, killing the tradition of great missions of exploration."

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich won’t like NASA’s near term plans for the moon either. The Lunar Quest Program, small to medium satellites, barely has a heartbeat. There’s one more moon mission on the table and then Quest gets phased out. There’s no moon base in this budget. Not even a moon rock.

During a news conference, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the budget preserves the agency’s three primary goals: to continue the development of a new heavy lift rocket and the Orion capsule for human deep space missions, fully implement the International Space Station as a science laboratory, and fund the continued work on the James Webb Telescope.

Bolden said, “It’s a great news story.” The budget, he insisted, will keep the U.S. as the world’s leader in space exploration. Of course, that’s a tough sell when you don’t even have a vehicle any longer to get astronauts into space.

According to the 2013 budget proposal, it will be another four years before commercial companies will be ready to start flying astronauts to the Space Station. By then, there will only be three years left in the station’s current life expectancy.

Much of NASA’s money is being gobbled up by the PacMan like Webb Telescope. It is already about $6 billion dollars over budget and years delayed. It may fly in 2018. When it does, space agency scientists say it will revolutionize our understanding of the universe. It will be the Hubble Telescope on steroids.

Clearly, NASA is flying, or at least attempting to fly, on a shoestring budget. It $17.7 billion is less than half of 1% of the overall federal budget. It appears the agency will be “NASA lite” for many years to come.

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soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    For all you Obama bashers, at least he's keeping some of the key projects alive. With the "cut government to the bone" mandate some Tea guys have, we are Lucky NASA still exists. The President presented his budget for NASA at $17.7B. How far do you think Congress would cut it if he asked for say $100B for a manned Mars mission. Look at Newt's moon mission. He was laughed out of Florida and probably lost his bid as a serious nominee because of it. It takes money and a strong will to go where no man has gone before!

    February 14, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  2. aj

    how about we bring our troops home from the philipenes, diego garcia, germany, etc etc etc etc 316 bases ffs, we could be on mars by now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 14, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  3. Don Canard

    time to get serious about building infrastructure in low earth orbit, and making getting there an everyday occurrence, as was posited 30 years ago and earlier by Von Braun. A big part of the motivation for George Junior's Wagon Train to Mars was trying to appear Kennedyesque (ahem...). Build the base so that it operates at planetary scale (rather than being run on a shoestring by consortiums of nations which too frequently use it as a geopolitical football (e.g. the US blocking China's participation in the ISS). We want to do this, it's not time for Romper Room or fools who think that with enough enthusiasm you can do anything. It takes cash and organization.

    February 14, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  4. j0eschm0e

    stop giving hand outs such as free tuition to illegals, we that live here dont get it for free W T F, now we have to pay for that too, on and on and on, thank you obama for ruining this country with your change. change of what? nationality? your change has done nothing but send us in the opposite direction

    February 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  5. Truthwillsetyoufree

    This is the one thing I have a hard time tolerating. Nasa takes such a small budget. People are too stupid to realize that there is much to gain by this research. New materials and a huge lift up on the technologies we need for alternative energy. If its something you dont get, then you lack vision...

    February 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • jim

      I may "lack vision" but atleast i wont be broke. NASA is a luxury and its one we cant afford right now so shut it down until we have our countries finances straight then open it back up.

      February 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
      • Josh

        I believe a great man once said that if we wait any longer for space exploration we risk stagnation and decay... I would rather grow than die, and the advancement of man should not be constrained by a piece of paper that humanity made up for convernience...

        February 14, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
      • Erik

        I know it's sad to say, but the $17.7 billion is insignificant in the long run (and on a national scale). Watch, it gives you a perspective of how "significant" these cuts are (it's a little older, but you'll get the idea.) We honestly have no choice but to cut back on welfare and possibly defense, and cuts to either will have terrible consequences for many American citizens. And besides, whatever politician finally realizes that they can't keep spending money that they don't have and cuts back on programs will be called heartless and probably will be replaced in the next election term. I know a lot of people say everyone deserves Social Security, and the program would have worked if politicians wouldn't have taken money from the Social Security fund to pay for other projects. But I just watched a video on the NY Times, and on average, for every $3 a person receives from Social Security, they paid $1. From a financial standpoint, it just isn't sustainable. And just to give an added perspective, our national debt increased by $3.5 billion per day in 2010 (it's higher now). That means that if they completely cut the $17.7 billion remaining in the NASA budget, they'd be able to keep our debt the same, not decreasing it by a penny, for a little over 5 days, the duration of a school week. Obviously, a whole year's worth of knowledge and research is worth more than a few days of staying at the same debt. Being a kid, it really frightens me what my future is going to hold both with taxes and an already daunting debt.

        February 14, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  6. Disappointed

    America has sold out its future. Our flash of greatness in the middle of the last century has petered out in a suffocating mix of insatiable greed, unending paranoia and xenophobia, criminal hypocrisy, and smug self-righteousness.

    February 14, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • BBoy705

      I'm with you man! You hit the nail on the head!

      February 14, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  7. j0eschm0e

    $17.7 billion is less than half of 1% of the overall federal budget. so if it was half a percent, then 100 % would be
    354 Billion + ???? the government was spending almost a half trillion a year????

    February 14, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • mike

      Dude, check your math.

      February 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Math FAIL

      35 x 100 buddy.

      February 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  8. Rob

    We're all cutting back, NASA is not immune. 18 billion is still a hell of alot of money considering were not launching vehicles.

    February 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  9. O'Bama Sucks

    Cut Medicaid/Welfare checks benefits for those in prisons or illegal aliens before you cut a single dollar in the NASA budget

    February 14, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • j0eschm0e

      Google this obama admits he is a muslim

      February 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
      • Josh

        Even if he was a Muslim... WHO THE HELL CARES!? I don't remember the rules for becoming president of the USA stating that you had to buy into the christian ideology...

        February 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
      • JusDav

        Actually, the only requisite for becoming a pres in US is to NOT be Catholic... if you are.. and become elected.. You will be TERMINATED. LOL (Please. It was a joke) Of course it matters not what religion you are. You can become Pres of US and fail miserably, we seem to expect that. (Please.. that was NOT a joke)

        just sayin


        February 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  10. JackGrover

    Space exploration is a lot like deciding when to have a baby.

    We tell ourselves; It's never "a good time" because we live in an appartment and not that home we want to have first. Because my job doesn't pay enough to add that kind of expense. I'm not sure I can handle that kind of responsibility. etc. etc. etc.

    But in reality, for most of us who took the leap, it is the most wonderful thing to happen to us. And space exploration is a lot like that. So let's marry ourselves to this space exploration commitment and teach this infant space baby how to be the best there is! And no, divorce is NOT an option!

    February 14, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  11. Mike B

    "The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there's no good reason to go into space–each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision."

    February 14, 2012 at 6:19 am |
    • Richp

      Yup, all it takes is one dinosaur killer as all our eggs are in one basket..

      February 14, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  12. spyder

    just ask for volunteers, send one way missions to mars and beyond. If i didnt have kids i would volunteer to b a major tom, exploring space.

    February 14, 2012 at 3:24 am |
    • j0eschm0e

      I read a book simular to that once, science fiction of course. but they sent people hundreds of in different directions to seed the universe. they were volunteers. next step is to make a space craft to make that possible. genius's must have a back up plan to colonize space, rather than tuck tail and hide under the deepest cavern in case of a catastrophy such a world ending asteroid etc.

      February 14, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  13. helenecha

    Let me see. To continue the development of a new heavy lift rocket and the Orion capsule for human deep space missions but the sustainable agendas were removed from the table, fully implement the International Space Station as a science laboratory but NASA’s shuttle program was canceled, and fund the continued work on the James Webb Telescope but not NASA’s most productive and successful programs over the past decade. Oh, Boy!

    February 14, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • Engineer

      What really irritated me is...we spend so much money on missiles, planes, and ships...but get cold feet exploring our solar system...our government has no problem spending billions invading other countries....and risking peoples lives in this endeavor....but won't put forth a fraction of that to get us off this rock.

      February 14, 2012 at 12:46 am |
  14. Mike

    I really am pro-military and also be willing to bet that if you asked, 9 out of 10 military folks would be willing to chop a couple of billion dollars from the nearly 700 billion dollar defense budget, to add to NASA's 18 billion...kinda sad if you think about it.

    February 13, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Edible Medical Marijuana needed for deep space exploration

      Space exploration will require edible medical marijuana for its anti-cancer properties:

      The active ingredient in marijuana cuts tumor growth in common lung cancer in half and significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread, say researchers at Harvard University who tested the chemical in both lab and mouse studies.


      The new findings “were against our expectations,” said Donald Tashkin of the University of California at Los Angeles, a pulmonologist who has studied marijuana for 30 years.

      “We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use,” he said. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”


      February 13, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
      • Don Canard

        Dude, what do you do when you get the munchies out there ? This gives the phrase 'space cadet' a whole new dimension (or two). Far out!!!

        February 14, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  15. powderPUFF

    its not in the buget yall

    February 13, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  16. Fr33th1nk3r

    Great. So now China is taking even more steps to leave us behind– in education, in economics, militarily, and now...the space program.

    February 13, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Richp

      Makes me wonder how many of our elected officials have retirement homes in China.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  17. Eric in Colorado

    They need to work on small swarm like craft so that when they land on the surface of a plent, the swarm goes out and does multiple ventures all at the same time and then return to the craft through a beacon and take back off and bring the samples home.

    February 13, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      Stop playing Starcraft on your parent's PC....this isn't a game.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  18. 28mAmerican

    This has to be fixed. It can't be allowed to pass. The experts including science leaders in inspiring our young to pursue scientific education have united in saying this strikes out the point to people getting the educations that are now covered as part of a regeneration of american industry. All these kids will get their degrees and have no jobs to get.

    Every one has asked the question "are we alone" that question is what drives many scientific minds. Remove the potential to be able to answer it and there will be no need to pay for education in science. Space is what generates desire to get an education. Rethink this.

    February 13, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • Engineer

      I agree...Our space program is the dream job for a lot of kids who are pursuing degrees in aerospace, physics, astrobiology, etc...we as a country are already losing ground in the "hard" sciences....when I was in college pursuing my engineering least half of the students were not American. These students come here, get degrees, then take that knowledge to countries(China, India, etc) that are taking these things seriously....the way that we are heading...if and when we get to Mars....we'll be going as American laborers to Chinese colonies on Indian rockets...take a look around....Earth is only so big...if we could open space up....Lunar bases....Martian colonies....mining NEO' would change the world....we would see an explosion of commerce...these things are not viable at this point...but they will be if we put forth the effort...Europeans enjoyed a huge amount of prosperity over the past 400 years due to pushing the limits of technology...and exploring/trading at a global level...whoever can accomplish that first on an INTERSTELLAR level will own the future.

      February 14, 2012 at 12:41 am |
      • j0eschm0e

        ABSOLUTELY CORRECT, we need to stop bailouts that are going to one area that does not affect the rest of us. stop wasting money and get this national debt cleared and move on.

        February 14, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  19. dudley0415

    Exploration is a great thing and provides great science. Question: Is there nothing more pressing we need to do with our taxes? Right now it takes the Feds nearly a QUARTER of the GDP of the greatest economic powerhouse ever to exist to run itself for one year – then there are state, county and municipal taxes – and still we're in debt up to the noses of the next generation's great-grandchildren.

    Can't afford it right now, unfortunately. A great part of NASA is "nice to have."

    February 13, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Alex

      I sincerely believe that USA needs to explore planet Mars and other planets as well...
      As soon as we take care of the U.S. poverty, homelessness and as soon as all Americans get
      Health insurance paid by Federal Government

      February 13, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
      • j0eschm0e

        u r a fool, the government is not going to pay for it, the tax payer will

        February 14, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
      • j0eschm0e

        the government will force the tax payer to buy their own healthcare, as many of us do not want nor can afford it.

        February 14, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  20. dudley0415

    I love NASA, I really do. Grew up in the shadow of Pad 39A.

    But this week there was a story about how the vision of long-term astronauts is adversely affected – don't want to land blind astronauts on Mars or back on Earth. Clearly they are not ready to go on a 3-year mission, and not only for this reason. Probably a good decision.

    February 13, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  21. Jose M. Pulido

    So much for Newt's Lunar Base, ha ha ha.

    February 13, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  22. Joe in Texas

    The good news is we get to advance our robotic technology. We are still basically doing soil and atmosphere samples at this point. I'm not convinced that human exploration on Mars is worth the taxpayers' money. Budgets will increase if micro fossils are discovered during the next mission. That objective is getting downplayed (and should be).

    February 13, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  23. Engineer


    February 13, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  24. dan sorby

    Use the money here not playing buck rogers

    February 13, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Nick

      What a small minded and ignorant comment, please, crawl back under your worthless rock.

      February 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  25. Thomas

    not cool

    February 13, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  26. the unallied

    This is sad to hear, but I think with how things are economically right now for the US you have to cut out the things that are still pretty far fetched at this point. It sounds like the projects remaining under funding are the more essential and pragmatic ventures. we've already done the whole robot thing and I don't think anyone is big on moon missions. Get the spacecraft built and get that satellite up so we can start learning even more about the mysteries space has to offer. It's gonna be baby steps for nasa until this country can get back on its feet again.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  27. Jason

    Very sad

    February 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  28. Dan


    February 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm |


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