President’s 2013 Budget Hits Planetary Science Hard
The president’s 2013 budget asks for modest increases for some federal science agencies but trims funding to NASA. The request takes a deep bite out of Mars and outer-planet science exploration in particular. NASA’s funding would fall to the lowest level in four years, with a total budget of $17.71 billion. The president’s request projects a flat budget through 2017, with no growth to even account for inflation.
As expected, planetary science — in particular Mars exploration and outer-planets missions — is the biggest loser, getting a $309 million decrease compared to last year. This means NASA will not be able to maintain previous commitments to the European Space Agency for dual Mars missions in 2016 and 2018. The hit to outer-planet exploration means a lack of funding for any new mission to study the moons of Jupiter or a Uranus orbiter, two projects that received high priority in last year’s planetary science decadal survey. The reduction might also affect ongoing missions such as the Cassini spacecraft that is currently exploring Saturn and its moons, though this will depend on the outcome of NASA’s senior reviews later this year.