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Casey DreierMarch 26, 2014

The NASA Budget: What Next

We're just getting started

Note: if you haven't written Congress about the NASA budget, stop reading this and click this link. We'll take you to an easy form that will allow do so very quickly. Then come back and finish this article. --cjd

And so it begins.

The President's budget request for NASA was released about two weeks ago. This kicks off advocacy season for the next (fiscal) year at NASA. The Planetary Society weighed in last week with this official response to the White House's request which cut $65 million from Planetary Science, cut every other science division except for Heliophysics, and mothballed the SOFIA telescope. Here's a short excerpt:

The Planetary Society cannot fully support the FY2015 NASA Budget Request. While there are some positive aspects—particularly the newfound openness to exploring Europa and the continued science operations of most high-priority planetary missions—the request imposes unacceptable cuts to the Science Mission Directorate that damage the immediate and long-term health of some of NASA's most successful programs, particularly planetary exploration. If this budget is passed unchanged, there will be fewer planetary missions in development by 2019 than at any point in the past few decades.

The Obama White House is bequeathing a deeply troubled future of planetary exploration to its successors. Its FY2015 budget does not preserve a healthy program. As the current slate of missions reach the end of their lives, there are few ready to take their place exploring the solar system. We urge Congress to once again reject these cuts to NASA's Planetary Science Division, as well as to NASA's top-line and to the Science Mission Directorate. We urge Congress to, at the very minimum, preserve NASA's funding at FY14 levels and to restore planetary science to its historical average of $1.5 billion per year.

Be sure to read the full statement.

So the budget's been proposed. Now what happens? Here's a rough breakdown of what the Planetary Society has done and is planning to do. Note that future actions could change depending on external events and that this is not an exhaustive list. We will be doing far more than this.

But to start:

March

The Planetary Society's actions:

Congress:

April

The Planetary Society:

Congress:

May

Congress:

Obviously, there will be lots more to come. Final votes on these spending bills will, ideally, occur before the fiscal year ends on October 1st. Unlike the previous few years, Congress has already agreed to top-line spending levels, plus it's an election year, so there should be a minimum of budget drama. We'll see.

The Society is working on additional educational materials, budget analysis, and ways you can take action. For now, make sure to write Congress if you haven't done so already. And if you've already written, take the next step and call your representative's offices. It's easier than you think.

There's a lot of work to do, but we are focused and ready to go. It's time to stand for space.

Read more: FY2015 NASA Budget, Explaining Policy, Space Policy, mission status

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Casey Dreier

Director of Space Policy for The Planetary Society
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