By John Rhea
WASHINGTON — The NASA budget is due to rise in the fiscal year 2005, which begins Oct. 1, as the space agency reorients its operation in the wake of President George W. Bush's call for a resumption of manned missions to the moon and then on to Mars.
The request submitted to Congress totals $16.2 billion, an increase of $866 million, or 5.6 percent over this year's level of $15.4 billion.
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe says the request reflects the president's vision, "which is to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program [that is] affordable, fiscally responsible, and sustainable."
According to a summary budget document of NASA's request, "NASA will immediately begin to realign programs and organization, demonstrate new technical capabilities, and undertake new robotic precursor missions to the Moon and Mars before the end of the decade."
The American Institute of Physics (AIP) in College Park, Md., analyzes eight of the key categories of interest to industry as follows:
- exploration, science, and aeronautics: down 0.9 percent, or $70 million, from $7,830 million to $7,760 million;
- space science: up 4.2 percent, or $167 million, from $3,971 million to $4,138 million;
- earth science: down 7.9 percent, or $128 million, from $1,613 million to $1,485 million;
- biological and physical research: up 6.5 percent, or $64 million, from $985 million to $1,049 million;
- education programs: down 25.2 percent, or $57 million, from $226 million to $169 million;
- exploration capabilities: up 12.4 percent, or $935 million, from $7,521 million to $8,456 million;
- exploration systems: up 8.3 percent, or $136 million, from $1,646 million to $1,782 million; and
- space flight: up 13.6 percent, or $799 million, from $5,875 million to $6.674 million.
O'Keefe maintains that NASA would seek international cooperation in the new lunar and planetary ventures, noting that he had spoken to the heads of the European Space Agency, Rosaviakosmos (the Russian space agency), and the Canadian Space Agency, and they have expressed interest. However, he added, "Well I think it is very much going to be a U.S.-led endeavor."
"What you see in fiscal year '05 will be equating to about $16.3 billion and increasing at a rate of about 5 percent or a little more for the next couple of years thereafter," O'Keefe says. "That equates to about a 5.5 percent increase in that first year, then progressing about 5 percent each year for the next couple of years and then leveling at about 3 percent thereafter."