Mars, Europe losers in Obama's 2013 NASA budget

Winners: Hubble's successor, high-flying humans


President Obama has revealed his proposed 2013 budget, and buried inside the $3.8-trillion wish list – along with tax credits for students, tax increases for the wealthy, cuts to the military, and other Republican bait – is $17.7bn for NASA that brings good news to some and bad news to others.

First, the good news for sky-watcher: "Following a thorough management and technical review," reads NASA's section of the budget narrative, "the Budget funds the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble, to enable a launch later this decade."

Next, the bad news for fans of the Red Planet: "Some important, but currently unaffordable missions are deferred, such as large-scale missions to study the expansion of the universe and to return samples from Mars," the budget narrative reads.

In a statement outlining NASA's response to Obama's proposed budget, the space agency's administrator Charles Bolden explained, "This means we will not be moving forward with the planned 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions that we had been exploring with the European Space Agency."

Sorry, ESA – the US has decided that working with you in the immediate future on the exploration of Mars is "unaffordable". However, NASA's MAVEN Mars-atmosphere-studying spacecraft, which Bolden called "well into development," is not on the chopping block, and remains scheduled for launch in November of next year.

All in all, the $17.7bn NASA budget is essentially flat from this year's – just about 0.3 per cent less than the 2011 budget that Congress (finally) approved last November. But one part of the budget – planetary science – takes the biggest hit, with a cut from $1.5bn this year to $1.2bn next.

Understandably, The Planetary Society's CEO Bill Nye is less than pleased. In a release entitled "Science Pushed to the Brink" he says: "The priorities reflected in this budget would take us down the wrong path. Science is the part of NASA that's actually conducting interesting and scientifically important missions."

Citing successes in explorations of Mars, Saturn, Mercury, the Moon, comets, and asteroids, and reminding his readers that more good science is expected from recent launches to recent launches to Jupiter, the Moon, and Mars, Nye argues that "The country needs more of these robotic space exploration missions, not less."

Planetary Society President Jim Bell is equally indignant. "People know that Mars and Europa are the two most important places to search in our solar system for evidence of other past or present life forms," he says. " "Why, then, are missions to do those searches being cut in this proposed budget? If enacted, this would represent a major backwards step in the exploration of our solar system."

What the budget will fund at the expense of more scientific studies of our planetary neighbors will be more money spent on putting humans in space, including heavy-lift capabilities ($1.88bn), the Orion crew capsule ($1.0bn), partnerships with private companies for low-earth-orbit space ferries ($830m), and support for the ISS ($3.0bn).

"This budget provides the funding needed to bring our human space launches back home to the US," NASA's Bolden said, "and get American companies transporting our astronauts once again."

Bolden, of course, waved the "jobs" talisman, as every US official must during the painfully slow recovery from the Great Recession. "We do many things in space," he said; "spending US tax dollars is not one of them. Every dollar spent on space exploration is spent right here on Earth. This budget in-sources jobs, creates capabilities here at home – and strengthens our workforce."

That said, NASA plans to reduce the size of its workforce by 250 during its coming fiscal year.

You can download a copy of NASA's budget presentation here, take a deep dive into the minutiae of the entire NASA budget here, or – should you be a true glutton for punishment – grab a copy of Obama's entire 256-page 2013 budget narrative here. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022