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Space policy wonks are more than curious to know what will be in the President's FY2012 budget request for NASA due to be submitted to Congress on Monday. The agency will hold a press briefing at 2:00 pm EST that day in the auditorium at NASA Headquarters, which will be telecast on NASA TV.
The budget request ordinarily is available on the website of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) around 9:00 am on the day of its release, but does not include programmatic specifics. Those are provided throughout the day in agency briefings. Information on budget briefings by NOAA and the Department of Defense will be posted here when they are available.
Senator Jon Kyl's (R-AZ) announcement today that he will not run for reelection in 2012 set off rampant speculation as to who will compete to replace him. One of the often mentioned names is Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). Almost unthinkable four weeks ago in the immediate aftermath of the shooting rampage that left six dead and the Congresswoman critically injured with a gunshot wound to the head, her miraculous recovery to date continues to spur optimism about her future.
Earlier this week, Politico ran a long article about Rep. Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. The article revealed that Rep. Giffords now is eating three meals a day and on Monday was able to speak, asking for toast for breakfast. Other news stories quote her close friend Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) as confirming that Rep. Giffords did in fact verbalize the word toast and hinted it was not the first time she had spoken since the shooting. Her ability to speak is viewed as another milestone in her recovery. Kelly declined to answer reporters' questions last week as to whether she was able to speak or not.
NASA's Inspector General (IG), Paul Martin, is testifying to the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee this morning. His written testimony is available on the Office of Inspector General (OIG) website.
Martin's bottom line is that NASA is in a "state of significant uncertainty" and its "most immediate challenge" is managing the agency's programs "amid the continuing lack of clarity caused by conflicting legislative directives" in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act and the FY2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act that prohibits NASA from cancelling the Constellation program or initiating a replacement program until Congress gives its approval in a subsequent appropriations act.
The cuts proposed yesterday by the House Appropriations Committee reportedly are not being warmly received by the conservative Tea Party Republicans in the House who promised to cut $100 billion in spending during their campaigns.
Doing the math is a problem in calculating how much of a cut was proposed, starting with the fundamental question of whether the baseline is the President's FY2011 budget request or the FY2010 appropriated levels under which the government is currently operating based on the Continuing Resolution (CR). Appropriators used the FY2011 President's request as their baseline, but apparently the Tea Party Republicans want the cut to be from current spending, which is the FY2010 level. If the FY2011 request is used, the House Appropriations Committee's cuts would total $74 billion. If the FY2010 level is used, the cut is only $32 billion according to calculations by the newspaper The Hill.
Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, announced this afternoon that his committee will yield to demands of the Tea Party Republicans and cut $100 billion from the budget in the upcoming Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government for the rest of FY2011. The cut will be from the FY2011 President's budget request, not current spending levels at the FY2010 level. Details on where the additional cuts will come from were not revealed.
The cuts announced by the committee yesterday totalled $74 billion from the FY2011 request, meaning that an additional $26 billion in cuts are needed. The cuts will have an even greater impact because they will have to be absorbed by the affected agencies over just 7 months instead of 12 months because the new legislation will not be enacted until at least March, when five months of FY2011 will have elapsed.
UPDATE: NASA Cut $379 Million, NOAA Cut $336 Million, in House Appropriations Proposal for CR For Rest of FY2011
UPDATE: The House Appropriations Committee has now posted its "partial list of 70 spending cuts" it is proposing for the FY2011 CR. The list includes the $379 million cut to NASA reported by the National Journal, as well as a $336 million cut to NOAA's budget, and one of the largest cuts -- $1.1 billion -- is from the Department of Energy's Office of Science (the press release does not specify that it is DOE's Office of Science, but a committee staffer confirmed that it is). NSF would also get cut by $139 million, and the National Institutes of Health by $1 billion.
"The spending bill will also include cuts to several of Congress' sacred cows: a $379 million cut to the NASA; a $224 million cut to Amtrak, and a $256 million cut in assistance to state and local law enforcement."
NASA cleverly designed the Stardust-NExT mission to have its encounter with comet Tempel 1 on Valentine's Day, but that was when the President's budget request for FY2012 was to be released a week earlier. Now, the two coincide. For those on the East Coast who are still awake near midnight on Monday and need relief from analyzing the budget request, the Tempel 1 encounter will be televised on NASA TV beginning at 8:37 pm PST (11:37 pm EST).
A press conference will be held the next day at 10:00 am PST (1:00 pm EST) at which Science Mission Directorate head Ed Weiler and three Stardust-NExT scientists -- Joe Veverka of Cornell, Tim Larson of JPL, and Don Brownlee of the University of Washington-Seattle -- will speak.
A group of Republican lawmakers have written to the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and its Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee recommending that funds for NASA's climate change research satellites be shifted to human spaceflight, reports Space News today.
The letter to Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) reportedly was signed by Reps. Pete Olson (R-TX), Bill Posey (R-FL), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Sandy Adams (R-FL), Rob Bishop (R-UT), and Mo Brooks (R-AL). All have districts with interests in the human spaceflight program.
ATK and Europe's Astrium have announced that they will team to build a new commercial rocket to compete for the commercial crew launch business. Called "Liberty," the rocket will build on the work ATK has been doing for NASA's Ares I.
Ares I is part of NASA's Constellation program that is on its way to being cancelled as soon as Congress passes an appropriations bill that lifts an existing congressional prohibition on terminating the program or beginning a new one. Liberty will use the solid rocket motors ATK was developing for Ares I paired with the first stage of Europe's Ariane rocket, which is built by Astrium. The rocket would be able to lift 44,500 pounds to low Earth orbit with a first launch at the end of 2013, a second test flight in 2015, and operational status is 2015, according to the press release.
The following events may of interest in the coming week. For further information, check our calendar on the right menu or click the links below.
Monday-Tuesday, February 7-8
Tuesday, February 8
Wednesday-Thursday, February 9-10
Thursday, February 10
Thursday-Friday, February 10-11
Events of Interest