Casey DreierMay 02, 2015

[Updated] Good Planetary Support in A Flawed NASA Bill

Update 2015-05-05: The Planetary Society has released a full statement on H.R. 2039.

Update 2015-04-30: The House Science Committee passed the bill on a party line vote with the authorization levels unchanged. Its next step is a vote in the full House of Representaties.

The House released a draft bill the other day that would authorize NASA funding for the years 2016 and 2017 (authorizing bills generally set policy and spending limits, but do not actually provide money).

Marcia Smith at SpacePolicyOnline has a good analysis of the overall bill. But here are a few highlights: 

  • Planetary Science gets a very good authorization: $1.5 billion for both years and specific priority in a reduced budget scenario.
  • Earth Science takes a big hit, dropping by about $300 million from 2015 and nearly $500 million below the 2016 request by the President.
  • SLS/Orion is authorized at a high level, basically by the amount removed from Earth Science.
  • NASA itself is authorized at the President's requested level, which is an increase from 2015 and grows with inflation in 2017.

Obviously, the cuts to Earth Science make this a hard bill to support, therefore The Planetary Society cannot support the full bill as written at this early stage. We want an Authorization bill for NASA that can pass Congress and be signed by the White House, we hope that the committee markup will find ways to preserve and grow all science as this moves forward. 

The Planetary Science numbers, however, are very good, as is the language relating to the frequency of planetary science missions. We submitted a letter to the House Science Committee that acknowledged these important additions and support of Planetary Science. This has been seen by some as full throated support for the full bill. It is not, but we believe that good language is good language, and the planetary numbers deserve support. We hope this planetary language makes it in to the both the Senate and House versions of this bill, as well as improved support for science overall.

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