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FY2010 NASA Appropriations (6/26/09)

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducts space and aeronautical research, development, and flight activities for peaceful purposes designed to maintain United States preeminence in aeronautics and space. The geoscience community is most interested in the Earth science observations conducted within the Science Mission Directorate within four themes (Earth Science,Planetary Science, Heliophysics and Astrophysics). For more background information on the Department of Interior and the agencies within, visit the AGI Federal Agencies policy page.

For analysis of hearings held by Congress on NASA appropriations, click here.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 NASA Appropriations Process


FY09 Enacted*
House Action
Senate Action
NASA (total)
Science (total)
--Earth Science
Earth Science Research
Earth Systematic Missions
Earth System Science Pathfinder
Earth Science Multi-Mission Operations
Earth Science Technology
Applied Sciences
-- Planetary Science


Space Operations

* FY09 Enacted includes stimulus funds from ARRA.

** Near-Earth Object Observations (NEOO) has been moved to Planetary Science starting in FY10.

# Total request may changed after the completion of a report on U.S. human space flight by a blue-ribbon panel chaired by Norman Augustine.

President's Request

Christopher Scolese, Acting Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced the President’s budget request for NASA for fiscal year 2010 (FY10) on May 7, 2009. NASA would receive an overall budget of $18.686 billion, an increase of about $903.6 million over FY09. In his written statements and presentation, Earth science was highlighted as a major priority.

In Scolese’s press release he wrote, “With the FY 2010 budget request, we will advance our global climate change research. NASA's investment in Earth science research satellites, airborne sensors, computer models and analysis already has revolutionized scientific knowledge and predictions of climate change and its effects. Using the National Research Council’s recommended priorities for space-based Earth science research, we will develop new sensors to support the Administration’s goal of deploying a global climate research and monitoring system.”

The breakdown of the total budget among the various mission directorates would be as follows: Science - $4,477.2 million; Aeronautics - $507 million; Exploration - $3,963 million; Space Operations - $6,175.6 million; Education - $126.1 million and Cross Agency Support - $3,400 million. NASA is committed to Earth observations, developing the next generation of human space flight, manned missions to the Moon and beyond, and completing the International Space Station in 2010. The agency plans to complete 9 more shuttle missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope repair mission in May 2009 and then will terminate the shuttle program.

On the same day as the NASA budget briefing, John Holdren the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, announced that the White House will set-up a blue-ribbon panel to review U.S. human space flight plans at NASA. The panel will be led by Norman Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, who served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology under Democratic and Republican presidents and led the 1990 Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program and the 2007 National Academies commission that produced the landmark report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. The panel is asked to provide a report on next steps in NASA’s human space flight by August of 2009. Once the report is submitted, the Administration may adjust the proposed budget for Exploration.

Within the Science Mission Directorate, Earth Science would receive $1,405 million, an increase of $26 million compared to FY09. Earth Science also received $325 million in FY09 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) as a one-time stimulus to be spent in 2009 and 2010. Planetary Science would receive $1,346.2 million, an increase of $21 million over FY09 and Heliophysics would receive $605 million, an increase of about $15 million over FY09. Neither of these programs received any stimulus funds from ARRA. Astrophysics would receive $1,121 million, a decrease of $85 million compared to FY09, but Astrophysics did receive $75 million in ARRA funds to be spent in 2009 and 2010.

NASA budget summary document indicates that Earth Science would see an increase of $900 million for FY10 to FY13, which is consistent with recent requests from the geosciences community to implement the priority missions from the National Research Council Decadal Survey for Earth Science.

Below is a summary of Earth Science missions that NASA has implemented in 2009 and plans to complete or begin in 2010, based on the President’s budget proposal. The text is from the NASA budget documents and more details about other programs are available in these documents.

“This year, NASA’s Earth Science satellites enabled research to understand how changes both in the tropics and in the Arctic sea ice are changing ocean biology globally. NASA also recently conducted the first Ice Bridge aircraft campaign to demonstrate a new airborne laser capability to bridge the gap in time between ICESats I and II. In FY 2010, NASA plans to launch the Glory mission to map atmospheric aerosols and continue the long record of solar influences on climate, and the Aquarius mission to provide the first global measurements of sea surface salinity. NASA will complete development of the NPOESS Preparatory Project and continue development of the Global Precipitation Mission and the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), and initiate work on development of a Thermal Infra-Red Sensor (TIRS). The launch vehicle failure of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) was a significant loss to the climate science communities, and NASA is assessing options to recover from that loss. NASA is continuing to work aggressively to implement the recommendations of the National Research Council Decadal Survey for Earth Science. The first two new missions the Decadal Survey recommended, SMAP and ICESat-II, will continue formulation in FY2010, with launches expected in late 2013 to early 2014 and late 2014 to early 2015 respectively. The next two, DESDynI and CLARREO, will be accelerated and transition to formulation. NASA also expects to issue its first Venture-class NASA FY 2010 Budget Request Summary SUM-6 Announcement of Opportunity later this year, implementing another decadal survey recommendation.”


House Action

The House approved of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for 2010 (H.R. 2847) on June 18, 2009. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration would receive $18.2 billion, an increase of $420 million over FY 2009. Much of the increase would be devoted to science and aeronautics research, while funds for human spaceflight will be frozen at FY 2009 levels until the Human Space Flight Task Force completes a review. About $4.5 billion would be for science (including $1.4 billion for Earth science), $501 million for aeronautics, $3.3 billion for exploration, $6 billion for space operations (including $3 billion for the Space Shuttle program), $175 million for education and $3 billion for cross agency support and management.

The committee report made the following recommendation regarding Earth science funding at NASA: "...Earth science funding at NASA has decreased more than one-third during the past eight years. NASA’s Earth science programs and activities seek to understand how Earth is changing and determine the consequences of those changes for life on our planet. Restoring the Earth science budget continues to be a priority for the Subcommittee."

The House of Representatives considers funding for the National Science Foundation in the subcommitte for Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Representative Mollohan (D-WV), other members include Representatives Kennedy (D-RI), Fattah (D-PA), Ruppersberger (D-MD), Schiff (D-CA), Honda (D-CA), Visclosky (D-IN), Serrano (D-NY), Obey (D-WI), Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Culberson (R-TX), Aderholt (R-AL), and Lewis (R-CA).

Senate Action

The Senate has not approved of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for 2010, however, the Appropriations Committee has approved of the bill and provided a committee report for the public record (111-034). The committe would provide less funding for Science and more funding for Exploration and Space Operations compared to the President's request and the House bill. Please see the table above for a comparison of the levels.

The committee provided the following specific comments about Earth science within NASA: "The Committee supports the development of Tier I missions in support of NASA’s Earth science program. These missions, in coordination with small and medium class missions being developed by the agency, are critical to address global challenges in climate change and other areas. Earth science, other missions and data analysis.—The recommendation includes $201,300,000 for Earth science, other missions and data analysis. An increase of $15,000,000 is provided above the request to advance further the studies of the next two decadal survey missions, the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) and the Deformation, Ecosystem Structure, and Dynamics of the Ice (DESDnyl)."

For other Earth science projects the committee recommended that NASA and NOAA proceed toward joint development of a scatterometer to measure sea surface vector winds, that NASA provide guidance on how to proceed with an Orbiting Carbon Observatory after the launch failure, provides an increase in funding for Near Earth Object Observations and provides $3 million for GLOBE to help transfer the program from NASA to NOAA.

The Senate considers funding for NASA in the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Senator Mikulski (D-MD), other members include Senators Inouye (D-HI), Leahy (D-VT), Kohl (D-WI), Dorgan (D-ND), Feinstein (D-CA), Reed (D-RI), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Nelson (D-NE), Pryor (D-AR), Shelby (R-AL), Gregg (R-NH), McConnell (R-KY), Hutchison (R-TX), Brownback (R-KS), Alexander (R-TN), Voinovich (R-OH) and Murkowski (R-AK).

Conference Committee Action

Congress passed H.R. 3288, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010 on December 13, 2009. This bill provides funding for six separate appropriations bills consolidated into the Transportation/HUD bill. It includes funding for science agencies (NSF, NASA, NOAA and NIST) and the Department of Education. President Obama signed the bill into law (Public Law 111-117) on December 16. The conference committee provided a joint explanatory statement to explain their budgetary choices in House Report 111-366.

NASA with an increase of $942 million, or 5.3 percent over its FY 2009 appropriation of $17,782 million (without stimulus funding) gets a total budget of $18,742 million for FY 2010. Science funding would decline by about $34 million (0.8 percent). Within Earth science, the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) and the Deformation, Ecosystem Structure, and Dynamics of the Ice (DESDnyI) decadal survey missions would receive an additional $15 million above the President's request and NASA would begin building a replacement for the destroyed Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) with at least $50 million ($25 million in additional funds and $25 million from the Science Mission Directorate) in FY 2010.

Congress remains concerned about NASA's ability to advance Earth science missions and encourages the agency to consider "commercial solutions". Legislators request NASA and other agencies within the U.S. Global Change Research Program to review and recommend ways to implement the Earth science decadal survey missions with respect to climate science. Congress notes that "NASA should provide leadership in demonstrating satellite-based global change measurements that can then be implemented on an operational basis by NOAA and USGS."

Beyond Earth observations, specific support for a Europa mission, an international lunar network, heliophysics sounding rocket operations and the solar probe plus satellite mission are called out in the report.

Legislators also request NASA to develop initiatives for a ground-based carbon monitoring system and to support the testing and development of coal-based carbon foam ablative devices for thermal protection systems for future missions to the Moon and Mars. Both initiatives would allow the agency to help the nation meet potential climate change mitigation strategies in the near future.

Appropriations Hearings

  • May 21, 2009: Senate Appropriations Committee Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on “Review of the FY2010 Budget Request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)”

Senate Appropriations Committee Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on “Review of the FY2010 Budget Request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)”
May 21, 2009

Mr. Christopher Scolese, Acting Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Adiminstration
Space Shuttle Atlantis ST-125 Crew

Committee Members Present
Barbara Mikulski, Chairwoman (D-MD)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
George Voinovich (R-OH)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)

On May 21, 2009, the Senate Appropriations Committee Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee held a historic hearing to discuss the fiscal year 2010 (FY10) budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Discussion of the budget did not make the hearing historic, however. What did make the hearing monumental was the live feed and participation from astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis orbiting Earth. They were the first ever congressional hearing witnesses from space. The Atlantis crew had just completed intricate repairs to the Hubble space telescope, and were able to share how they overcame numerous obstacles in their repairs to allow several more years of deep space research with the telescope.

The FY10 budget received both praise and disappointment. On the positive side for NASA, the FY10 overall NASA budget of $18.7 billion is nearly $1 billion greater than the 2009 omnibus level. However, of concern to the subcommittee members is the proposed flatlining of future NASA budgets. $4.5 billion of the budget is designated for science projects, an amount considered a “robust commitment” by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). The science budget addresses earth science research topics such as support of satellite missions that will provide valuable remote sensing in many areas of climate change science. Another bi-partisan concern from the subcommittee was the allotment of $575 million for aeronautics research conducted by the agency. Mikulski expressed disappointment in this amount, noting aeronautics is a cornerstone of the NASA mission, received $1.5 billion in 1998, and Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) urged that this part of the NASA budget be reconsidered.

Mikulski also expressed disappointment with recent NASA trends of being over budget on many projects, noting that in 2006, 83 percent of NASA projects were over budget. Voinovich also pressed Mr. Chris Scolese on the issue. Scolese provided some reasons as to why budgets are exceeded, most notably that NASA often times “learns as it goes” in a project because of its research mission. Scolese also noted that NASA changes specification mid-project that run up costs, and that contractors should not be blamed for the trend in budget overruns.

Scolese informed the subcommittee of the near-term plans for the space shuttle program. He indicated that NASA plans to launch 8 more missions to the International Space Station (ISS) prior to the end of 2010. Mikulski asked Scolese if there are any plans of extending the shuttle program beyond 2010, to which Scolese responded that there is currently no end date to the program and that NASA is “constantly evaluating the situation.” This issue is critical for ISS operations, as the Russian Soyuz spacecraft will need to be used for transportation between Earth and the station when the shuttle program is mothballed. One seat on the Soyuz for a U.S. astronaut currently costs $47 million per mission, an amount Scolese considered “reasonable” while the Orion Project is still in the development phase.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) expressed a partisan tone in his remarks about the fact that the Obama Administration, which was touted to “hit the ground running”, is just now rolling out the FY10 budget for NASA. Shelby also criticized the budget for “short changing” the manned space program, even though the FY10 budget for this item was $456 million higher than the FY09 allotment. Shelby pointed out that “the Hubble program would still be on the ground if it weren’t for manned space flights,” and because of this he proposed a “do-over” in the budget for allocations of manned space flights.

Because of the pending termination of the space shuttle program, Mikulski expressed her concern for maintaining the dedicated and talented workforce that made the shuttle program work. Scolese informed Mikulski that NASA is taking steps to retain its workforce, using incentives and bonuses to keep NASA’s talent in the agency, as well as retraining scientists, engineers, and technicians for other future NASA projects.

Scolese also shared that NASA is spending $126 million in support of education programs and opportunities. Though this amount, as pointed out by Mikulski, was $40 million below FY09 levels it will cover the entire education spectrum, from K-12 programs and summer education programs for teachers to supporting graduate student research at the university level.

A video archive of the conversation the Atlantis crew had with the subcommittee can be found here.


Sources: NASA Budget Information website, American Institute of Physics

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at

Prepared by Linda Rowan and Corina Cerovski-Darriau, AGI Government Affairs Staff.

Last updated June 26, 2009

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