We have a saying around here that "flat is the new up," when referencing science budgets in the United States. We've been arguing for the last year to maintain NASA's Planetary Science Division funding at 2012 levels – about $1.5 billion per year – for the next five years. No growth for inflation. No additional money. That's not too bad given the current economic situation.
But now maybe "up" is the new up (or maybe up is the new flat?).
SpaceNews reports today that European Space Agency's budget will receive a 6.5% increase:
The budget of the European Space Agency (ESA) is rising by 6.5 percent in 2013 on the strength of a one-time increase from Italy, the first year of the five-year increase promised by Britain and contributions from ESA's two new members, Poland and Romania, ESA announced Jan. 24.
For ESA, the bottom-line figure for 2013 is 4.28 billion euros, or about $5.6 billion. Nearly 73 percent of it comes from contributions from its 20 member states. Just over 21 percent is from the European Commission. The rest is from nations that have cooperating agreements with ESA, and from contracts ESA has for work it does on behalf of other organizations, notably the European meteorological satellite organization, Eumetsat of Darmstadt, Germany.
Obviously, this isn't completely fair to compare this to NASA's budget, as we will never welcome additional paying members into our space program. But it does reflect choices by both Italy and especially the UK to increase their contributions ESA over the next few years.
ESA now joins the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, in enjoying increased investment over the coming years. Clearly, their governments see space as an important long-term investment despite tightened budgets.
NASA has seen a 4% budget cut since 2011, and the agency's funding is expected to remain stagnant for the foreseeable future. Sequestration, if enacted, would cut NASA's budget by additional 8.2% this year.