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Sun, Apr 19, 2009

Report: NASA Schedule Will Fall Behind Without Increased Funding

CBO Says $2 Billion Boost Needed To Avoid Delay Of Constellation Program

According to a report released last week by the Congressional Budget Office, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will fail to meet its projected schedule over the next decade, unless funding to the agency is increased by $2 billion a year.

Florida Today reports that based on the analysis of budget scenarios to fulfill plans for NASA mapped out by President George W. Bush in 2004, the CBO said, "If NASA's funding was maintained at $19.1 billion annually and the agency realized cost growth in its programs consistent with the average for 72 of its past programs, its planned schedules for spaceflight programs would be delayed."

At the current funding level, the report said "the initial operating capability for Ares 1 and Orion would be pushed to late 2016; the return of humans to the moon would slip (from 2020) to 2023; and 15 of 79 science missions would be delayed beyond 2025."

In its analysis, the CBO also projected probable outcomes of increasing NASA's budget:

With a $2 billion increase to $21.1 billion annually, the Constellation program and the Shuttle program retirement would be able to meet planned schedules, but 15 out of 79 planned space missions would have to be cut or delayed until after 2025.

With a nearly $4 billion increase to $23.8 billion annually, the Constellation program and planned missions would stay on schedule, and the Shuttle program could be extended until 2015 - thus eliminating the gap in US spaceflight capability to the International Space Station.

A recent statement written by former astronaut James Lovell calls for sufficient financing for NASA to complete the work it has started. In part, it reads, "It is imperative that NASA receive sufficient funds from the national budget to move on to the next phase of space exploration under the Constellation program.

"Provided that President Obama holds true on his promise of $2 billion in additional funding for the program, NASA will be able to continue its great work and ensure that hundreds of thousands keep their jobs, allowing the work and dollars for the space program to remain within the US economy.

"This is not a bailout for the agency, but necessary financing to accomplish all that NASA has been tasked with doing."

FMI: www.nasa.gov, www.cbo.gov

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