Obama would direct larger share of space budget to R&D
During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama said his administration "would support a robust research and technology development program that addresses the long-term needs for future human and robotic missions. He supports a funding goal that maintains at least 10 percent of the total exploration systems budget for research and development."
The administration's proposed fiscal year 2011 budget would go a long way toward achieving this goal.
Under the heading of "Exploration Research & Development," the proposed budget would spend $7.8 billion over five years on the demonstration of technologies related to future exploration activities, such as in-orbit refueling and storage; $3.1 billion over five years on research and development for new propulsion technologies; and $3 billion over five years for robotic missions to scout for future human destinations in space. Together, these three efforts would account for well over half of the Exploration directorate's budget. In addition, the administration added a space technology line to the new Aerospace and Space Research and Technology account.
As with all elements of the president's budget, nothing is final until Congress passes the relevant appropriations bills and the president signs them. In the case of research and development spending, securing the degree of investment the president wants hinges on his administration's ability to wring savings from its proposed cancellation of Constellation, the next-generation system for launching humans into space. (Some of the money would come from a less controversial source, the end of the space shuttle program.) That system has already cost NASA $9 billion, not counting $2.5 in winding-down costs over the next two fiscal years, and its defenders in Congress could pose an obstacle to the president's broader space agenda.
That said, the president has not only stated clear goals for research and development related to space but has proposed significant levels of funding. He promised to "support" a robust research and technology development program, and we think he has clearly done that, even though Congress has not yet acted to implement it. We are moving this promise from Stalled to Promise Kept.
Office of Management and Budget, NASA fact sheet from the president's fiscal year 2011 budget proposal, Feb. 1, 2010
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Estimates, Feb. 1, 2010
E-mail interview with Marcia Smith of spacepolicyonline.com, Feb. 2, 2010
E-mail interview with Edward Ellegood, space policy analyst at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Feb. 12, 2010
Plan for space research and development awaits administration decision
During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to "support a robust research and technology development program that addresses the long-term needs for future human and robotic missions. He supports a funding goal that maintains at least 10 percent of the total exploration systems budget for research and development."
The administration is weighing recommendations on the future of space exploration from the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, more commonly known as the Augustine Committee, after its chairman, Norman Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin. In the meantime, a pair of space policy reviews are under way, one by the National Security Council and one by the Defense Department.
A decision on the future course of research and development in space awaits the conclusion of these policy reviews. The administration's course should become clear no later than February, when it releases its fiscal year 2011 budget request.
But for now, we're still in the dark on the administration's priorities. So we'll rate this promise Stalled.
U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, "Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation" ( final report of the Augustine Commission), October 2009
E-mail interview with Edward Ellegood, space policy analyst at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Dec. 3, 2009.
E-mail interview with Marcia Smith of spacepolicyonline.com, Dec. 3, 2009.