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FY 2012 Request for National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Richard M. Jones
Number 24 - February 24, 2011  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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The Administration has requested level funding for FY 2012 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), unchanged from the FY 2010 appropriation of $18,724.3 million.  Said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a message accompanying the FY 2012 budget summary:

“Even in these difficult fiscal times, this budget supports all elements of the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2010, along with the President’s agenda of innovation, education, and infrastructure. However, tough choices had to be made. That is why this budget prioritizes urgent needs, while continuing the Agency's focus on a reinvigorated path of exploration, innovation, and technological development leading to an array of challenging destinations and missions. Today, we begin to win the future.”

A year ago the Administration sent Congress a budget request that dramatically changed some of NASA’s programs.  After many months of negotiations House and Senate appropriators passed differing versions of an FY 2011 funding bill that supported important components of the Administration’s human space flight initiative.  This legislation was never passed.  Congress did pass, and the President signed, a NASA reauthorization bill that the agency is implementing.  Bolden’s message explains NASA’s priorities:

“Our priorities are to: safely fly out the Space Shuttle this year and maintain safe access for humans to low Earth orbit as we fully utilize the International Space Station [ISS]; facilitate safe, reliable, and cost effective U.S.-provided commercial access to low Earth orbit for crew and cargo as soon as possible; begin to lay the ground work for expanding human presence into deep space through development of a powerful rocket and modern crew capsule; and pursue technology development to carry humans farther into the solar system even as we extend our reach with robots and observatories and make the most of technological breakthroughs to improve life here at home.”

An agency summary explains:

“In FY 2012, NASA will strengthen the Nation’s human space flight activities by transitioning from an engineering focus on building the ISS to an emphasis on scientific research and technology development -- essential building blocks for a long-term human space exploration program. The ISS is the centerpiece of NASA’s planning for extended space missions, as it serves as a research laboratory and technology test bed for basic and advanced studies in life sciences, human health, material sciences, Earth science, and fundamental physics. A new independent non-profit organization is being established to coordinate and oversee all of these research and technology efforts.”

The following figures were taken from NASA’s budget document.  In all cases, comparisons are made to the actual FY 2010 appropriation:

Total NASA:

No change: the actual FY 2010 appropriation was $18,724.3 million.  The FY 2012 request is $18,724.3 million.

Science Mission Directorate:

Up 11.5 percent or $519.2 million from $4,497.6 million to $5,016.8 million.

Within this budget are the following programs:

Earth Science: Up 24.9 percent or $358.1 million from $1,439.3 million to $1,797.4 million.

Planetary Science:  Up 12.9 percent or $176.3 million from $1,364.4 million to $1,540.7 million.

Astrophysics: Up 5.5 percent or $35.4 million from $647.3 million to $682.7 million.

James Webb Telescope: Down 14.8 percent or $65.0 million from $438.7 million to $373.7 million.

Heliophysics: Up 2.4 percent or $14.3 million from $608.0 million to $622.3 million.

The budget document explains:

“In FY 2012, NASA will launch the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP), the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), and the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP). NuSTAR and Swift will continue the search for black holes, and the Great Observatories (Hubble, Chandra, and Spitzer), along with Fermi, will map out the earliest and most interesting structures of the universe.

“NASA will begin new studies of the Martian surface with the MSL rover, a mobile suite of sophisticated scientific instruments designed to collect data on the environment and geologic history of Earth’s nearest neighbor. Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) will examine Earth’s radiation belts to help understand how the Sun affects life on Earth. NASA will add to its fleet of climate monitoring spacecraft by beginning operations of Glory, Aquarius, and NPP. The Glory mission will provide scientists with data to enable better weather and climate predictions. Data from these missions will inform strategies and policy discussions on global climate change and possibly help to identify ways to mitigate human impacts on the environment that may affect climate.

“Under the restructured civilian portion of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) now called the Joint Polar Satellite System, NASA will be working as NOAA’s acquisition agent to develop and launch the satellite system necessary for civil weather and climate measurements. Similarly, NASA will support the Landsat program at USGS, to help ensure the continuity of this historic and valuable national resource.”

Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate:

Up 14.6 percent or $72.4 million from $497.0 million to $569.4 million.

Space Technology:

Up 272.2 percent or $749.0 million from $275.2 million to $1,024.2 million.

Exploration Systems Mission Directorate:

Up 8.9 percent or $322.9 million from $3,625.8 million to $3,948.7 million.

Space Operations Mission Directorate:

Down 29.2 percent or $1,794.9 million from $6,141.8 million to $4,346.9 million.


Down 23.2 percent or $41.7 million from $180.1 million to $138.4 million.

Cross-Agency Support:

Up 5.8 percent or $174.4 million from $3,017.6 million to $3,192.0 million.

Construction and Environmental Compliance:

Down 0.5 percent or $2.4 million from $452.8 million to $450.4 million.

Inspector General:

Up 3.0 percent or $1.1 million from $36.4 million to $37.5 million.

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics