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Casey DreierJuly 12, 2013

House Committee Approves Smallest NASA Budget Since 1986

The House Appropriations committee, apparently feeling nostalgic for the Karate Kid and warm leggings, just approved the smallest NASA budget (in terms of purchasing power) since 1986.

The subcommittee responsible for NASA's budget approved $16.6 billion for the space agency in 2014. While SpaceNews reported this as the smallest budget since 2007, it's actually much worse if you correct for inflation.

NASA's Budget, 1982 - 2015, Adjusted for Inflation

NASA's Budget, 1982 - 2015, Adjusted for Inflation
NASA's budget since the early '80s, adjusted for inflation to 2013 dollars. This includes the 2015 as passed by Congress in December of 2014. Data available at as a Google Spreadsheet.

NASA is also tasked with far more goals now than in 1986, including Earth Science, Planetary Science, Heliophysics, and astrophysics science, building a new heavy lift rocket, a new crew vehicle, the James Webb Space Telescope, supporting commercial crew development by private industries, and supporting the International Space Station.

While you hear a lot of lawmakers say that federal agencies must "do more with less," my guess is that most will do less with less. We're already seeing a big drop-off of future solar system exploration missions due to tighter budget, this will likely continue if this budget is enacted.

The Senate still needs to weigh in, so this House budget is not the last word in the matter, but it's deeply troubling. You can't turn NASA on and off like a spigot. Cuts now will echo through the coming decades.

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Read more: FY2014 NASA Budget

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Casey Dreier

Chief Advocate & Senior Space Policy Adviser for The Planetary Society
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