National Aeronautics and Space Administration: Overview, FY2009 Budget, and Issues for Congress

This report provides an overview of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), FY 2009 budget, the vision for space exploration, the science program, and NASA aeronautics research.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration: Overview, FY2009 Budget, and Issues for Congress Daniel Morgan Analyst in Science and Technology Policy Carl E. Behrens Specialist in Energy Policy March 6, 2009 Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov RS22818 CRS Report for Congress Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress National Aeronautics and Space Administration Summary The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducts U.S. civilian space and aeronautics activities. For FY2009, the Bush Administration requested $17.614 billion for NASA, an increase of 1.8% from the FY2008 appropriation of $17.309 billion. The House Appropriations Committee recommended $17.769 billion. The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $17.814 billion. The NASA Authorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-422) authorizes $20.210 billion. The Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (H.R. 1105 as passed by the House) would provide $17.782 billion. Pending enactment of an FY2009 appropriations act, NASA is operating at FY2008 funding levels under the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2009 (Division A of P.L. 110-329) as extended by H.J.Res. 38. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5) provided an additional $1.002 billion. The Vision for Space Exploration—returning humans to the Moon by 2020 and eventually going on to Mars—has been the major focus of NASA’s activities since President Bush announced it in 2004. It is not yet clear whether or how the Obama Administration will seek to modify the Vision. Issues for Congress include the development of new vehicles for human spaceflight, plans for the transition to these vehicles after the space shuttle is retired in 2010, and the balance in NASA’s priorities between human space exploration and the agency’s activities in science and aeronautics. Congressional Research Service National Aeronautics and Space Administration Contents Agency Overview .......................................................................................................................1 NASA’s FY2009 Budget .............................................................................................................1 The Vision for Space Exploration................................................................................................3 NASA Science Programs.............................................................................................................4 NASA Aeronautics Research.......................................................................................................5 The Space Shuttle and the International Space Station .................................................................6 Tables Table 1. NASA Budget, FY2008 and FY2009 .............................................................................2 Contacts Author Contact Information ........................................................................................................7 Congressional Research Service National Aeronautics and Space Administration Agency Overview The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created by the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act (P.L. 85-568) to conduct civilian space and aeronautics activities. Its programs include human and robotic spaceflight, technology development, and scientific research. NASA opened its doors on October 1, 1958, almost exactly a year after the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik.1 The first day of FY2009 was NASA’s 50th anniversary. NASA is headquartered in Washington, DC. It has nine major field centers: Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA; Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA; Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH; Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD; Johnson Space Center, near Houston, TX; Kennedy Space Center, near Cape Canaveral, FL; Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA; Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL; and Stennis Space Center, in Mississippi, near Slidell, LA. In addition, it has a federally funded research and development center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, operated by the California Institute of Technology. NASA’s programs are organized into four Mission Directorates: Aeronautics Research, Exploration Systems, Science, and Space Operations. More information on the agency’s centers, directorates, and management team can be found on the NASA website at http://www.nasa.gov/about/org_index.html. NASA’s FY2009 Budget The requested FY2009 budget for NASA is $17.614 billion, which is 1.8% more than the FY2008 appropriation of $17.309 billion.2 The House committee recommended $17.769 billion.3 The Senate committee recommended $17.814 billion.4 The NASA Authorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-422) authorizes $20.210 billion. FY2009 began on October 1, 2009. The Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (H.R. 1105 as passed by the House) would provide $17.782 billion. Pending the enactment of an appropriations act for FY2009, NASA is operating at FY2008 funding levels under the authority of the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2009 (Division A of P.L. 110-329) as extended by H.J.Res. 38. That authority extends through March 11, 2009. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5) provided an additional $1.002 billion. For a breakdown of these figures by program, see Table 1. 1 See CRS Report RL34263, U.S. Civilian Space Policy Priorities: Reflections 50 Years After Sputnik, by Deborah D. Stine. 2 As well as appropriating new funds for NASA for FY2008, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (P.L. 110161) rescinded $192 million in unobligated NASA funds from prior years. The request for FY2009 is 2.9% more than the FY2008 appropriation less this rescission. 3 H.R. 7322 (110th Congress) as reported and H.Rept. 110-919. 4 S. 3182 (110th Congress) as reported and S.Rept. 110-397. Congressional Research Service 1 Table 1. NASA Budget, FY2008 and FY2009 ($ in millions) FY2008 as Enacted Science FY2008 Comparable to FY2009 FY2009 Request FY2009 House Cmte. FY2009 Senate Cmte. FY2009 Authorization FY2009 Omnibus FY2009 Stimulus 5,546.9 4,706.2 4,441.5 4,518.0 4,522.9 4,932.2 4,503.0 400.0 Earth Science 1,524.2 1,280.3 1,367.5 1,447.6 1,439.5 1,518.0 1,439.6 — Planetary Science 1,387.4 1,247.5 1,334.2 1,410.9 1,410.9 1,483.0 1,326.9 — Astrophysics 1,578.8 1,337.5 1,162.5 1,181.0 1,184.1 1,290.4 1,201.1 — Heliophysics 1,056.6 840.9 577.3 618.3 633.4 640.8 606.4 — — — — (139.8) (145.0) — (70.9) — Aeronautics 621.9 511.7 446.5 515.0 500.0 853.4 500.0 150.0 Exploration 3,821.0 3,143.1 3,500.5 3,505.7 3,530.5 4,886.0 3,505.5 400.0 Constellation Systems 2,991.0 2,471.9 3,048.2 3,028.2 3,078.2 4,148.2 3,051.1 — Advanced Capabilities 830.0 671.1 452.3 477.5 452.3 737.8 472.3 — — — — — — — (18.0) — 5,764.7 — Unallocated Adjustment Unallocated Adjustment Space Operations 6,733.7 5,526.2 5,774.7 5,764.7 5,774.7 Space Shuttle 3,981.1 3,266.7 2,981.7 2,981.7 2,981.7 — 2,981.7 — International Space Station 2,209.5 1,813.2 2,060.2 2,060.2 2,060.2 — 2,060.2 — 543.1 446.3 732.8 722.8 732.8 — 722.8 — Education 177.7 146.8 115.6 187.2 130.0 128.3 169.2 — Cross-Agency Support 375.6 3,242.9 3,299.9 3,244.8 3,320.4 3,299.9 3,306.4 50.0 32.6 32.6 35.5 33.6 35.5 35.5 33.6 2.0 17,309.4 17,309.4 17,614.2 17,769.0 17,814.0 20,210.0 17,782.4 1,002.0 Space and Flight Suppt. Inspector General Total 6,074.7 Sources: FY2008 as enacted from P.L. 110-161, Division B, and explanatory statement, Congressional Record, December 17, 2007, with general reductions applied proportionally. FY2008 comparable and FY2009 request from NASA FY2009 congressional budget justification, available online at http://www.nasa.gov/news/budget/. See text for explanation of “comparable.” FY2009 House from H.R. 7322 (110th Congress) as reported and H.Rept. 110-919. FY2009 Senate from S. 3182 (110th Congress) as reported and S.Rept. 110397. FY2009 authorization from Sec. 101 of P.L. 110-422. FY2009 Omnibus from the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (H.R. 1105) as passed by the House, Division B, and explanatory statement, Congressional Record, February 23, 2009. FY2009 Stimulus from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5). Rounding may cause totals not to add. CRS-2 National Aeronautics and Space Administration For FY2009, NASA again changed how it accounts for overhead expenses.5 In the previous system, indirect costs were included in each program’s budget. In the new system, most indirect costs are budgeted separately in the Cross-Agency Support account. This change reduces the stated budget of each program (except Cross-Agency Support) without affecting program content or NASA’s total budget. For any program, amounts expressed in the new accounting system are not directly comparable with amounts expressed in the previous system. Table 1 displays FY2008 amounts both ways: in the old system, as enacted, and in the new system, for comparability with FY2009. The Vision for Space Exploration On January 14, 2004, President Bush announced new goals for NASA: the Vision for Space Exploration. The President directed NASA to focus its efforts on returning humans to the Moon by 2020 and some day sending them to Mars and “worlds beyond.” (Twelve U.S. astronauts walked on the Moon between 1969 and 1972. No humans have visited Mars.) The President further directed NASA to fulfill commitments made to the 13 countries that are its partners in the International Space Station (ISS). In the NASA Authorization Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-155), Congress endorsed the goals of the Vision and directed NASA to establish a program to accomplish them. The NASA Authorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-422) reaffirmed this endorsement and expressed the sense of Congress that other countries should be invited to participate in the Moon/Mars program as part of an international initiative under U.S. leadership. It is not yet clear whether or how the Obama Administration will seek to modify the Vision. NASA is developing a spacecraft called Orion (formerly the Crew Exploration Vehicle) and a launch vehicle for it called Ares I (formerly the Crew Launch Vehicle). An initial operating capability (i.e., a first flight into Earth orbit with a crew on board) is planned for March 2015, with the ability to take astronauts to and from the Moon following no later than 2020. NASA has stressed that its strategy is to “go as we can afford to pay,” with the pace of the program set, in part, by the available funding. Most funding for the Vision has been redirected from other NASA activities. The space shuttle program will be terminated in 2010, and U.S. use of the ISS will end by 2017. NASA has not provided a cost estimate for the Vision as a whole. Its 2005 implementation plan estimates that returning astronauts to the Moon will cost $104 billion, not including the cost of robotic precursor missions, and that using Orion to service the ISS will cost an additional $20 billion.6 A report by the Government Accountability Office gives a total cost for the Vision of $230 billion over two decades.7 The 2008 authorization act directed the Congressional Budget Office to update its 2004 budgetary analysis of the Vision.8 The Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) is responsible for implementing the Moon/Mars program. The FY2009 request for ESMD is $3.500 billion. The House and Senate 5 Other recent changes include “full cost accounting,” introduced in the FY2004 budget request, and “full cost simplification,” introduced during FY2007. 6 NASA, Exploration Systems Architecture Study: Final Report, NASA-TM-2005-214062, November 2005, http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/exploration/news/ESAS_report.html. 7 Government Accountability Office, High Risk Series, GAO-07-310, January 2007, p. 75. 8 Congressional Budget Office, A Budgetary Analysis of NASA’s New Vision for Space Exploration, September 2004. Congressional Research Service 3 National Aeronautics and Space Administration committees recommended $3.506 billion and $3.530 billion respectively. The 2008 authorization act authorizes $3.886 billion in baseline funding plus $1 billion to accelerate the availability of Orion and Ares I. The Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, would provide $3.505 billion. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided an additional $400 million. The bulk of all these amounts would be for the Constellation Systems program, which is developing Orion and Ares I and related activities. The requested 23% increase for Constellation Systems is consistent with NASA’s previous projections for the program. The FY2009 request for ESMD restores full funding for the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program to help privatesector companies develop space transportation systems that could service the ISS after the shuttle is retired. The House committee recommended $20 million less than the request for COTS, “without prejudice ... based on estimated expenditures”; the Senate committee recommended the requested amount; the omnibus bill would provide $20 million less, with the same language as the House committee’s. Along with a host of implementation challenges, the Vision creates issues about the balance between human space exploration and NASA’s other activities in science and aeronautics. Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin reportedly said, “I will do everything I can to keep Orion and Ares I on schedule. That will be right behind keeping shuttle and station on track, and then after that we’ll fill up the bucket with our other priorities.”9 The 2005 and 2008 authorization acts both emphasized that NASA should have a balanced set of programs, including science and aeronautics as well as activities related to the Vision. The Senate committee report for FY2009 also expressed concern about NASA’s programmatic balance. NASA Science Programs The FY2009 request for the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is $4.442 billion. After adjusting for the accounting change, this is a 6% decrease from FY2008, but almost the entire decrease results from a transfer of the Deep Space and Near Earth Networks from SMD’s Heliophysics division to the Space Operations Mission Directorate. The House and Senate committees recommended $4.518 billion and $4.523 billion respectively; both totals included reallocated balances carried over from past fiscal years. The Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, would provide $4.503 billion, also offset with balances from past years. The 2008 authorization act authorizes $4.932 billion. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided an additional $400 million. The request would increase funding for Research and Analysis in all four SMD divisions as well as for suborbital research carried out on balloons and sounding rockets. Requested increases for Planetary Science and Earth Science would be offset by requested decreases for Astrophysics and Heliophysics. The request for Planetary Science includes $60 million to initiate a new program in lunar robotic science, including a Moon orbiter to be launched by 2011 and a pair of small landers to be launched by 2014. The increase for Earth Science would fund two new missions recommended by the National Research Council’s decadal survey10 and accelerate the schedule for several others; the House and Senate committees recommended further increases for this 9 Quoted in “NASA Will Protect CEV, Station Against Flat-Budget Squeeze,” Aerospace Daily and Defense Report, January 11, 2007. 10 See National Research Council, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond, 2007, http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11820.html. Congressional Research Service 4 National Aeronautics and Space Administration purpose of $50 million and $47 million respectively. Also in Earth Science, both committees supported inclusion of a thermal infrared sensor (TIRS) on the Landsat Data Continuity Mission; the House committee recommended an additional $20 million for this purpose, while the Senate committee urged “development ... within available funds.” The request for Astrophysics includes funding for the NASA/DOE Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM), as directed by Congress in the FY2008 explanatory statement, but not for the Space Interferometer mission (SIM). Both committees recommended the requested amount for JDEM. In FY2008, NASA reallocated part of SIM’s funding to a new exoplanet exploration initiative, which could include a smaller version of SIM as recommended by the FY2008 Senate committee report (S.Rept. 110-124); the House committee recommended $30 million more than the request for exoplanet exploration. Also in Astrophysics, the House committee deleted “without prejudice” the $41.5 million requested for the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuStar); the Senate committee recommended $30 million. Both committees recommended increases to cover cost growth in several Science programs. The omnibus bill would provide a total of $150 million for Earth Science decadal survey missions, $10 million for TIRS, and $20 million to assess lower-cost versions of SIM; the explanatory statement directs NASA to report to the appropriations committees on its plans for the Mars Science Laboratory, whose expected cost has increased by $400 million. The additional funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included funds to accelerate Earth Science mission recommended by the NRC decadal survey and to increase NASA’s supercomputing capabilities. NASA Aeronautics Research The FY2009 request for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate is $446 million. That level is consistent with NASA’s previous projections, but it would be a 13% decrease relative to the FY2008 appropriation (after adjusting for the accounting change). Most of the proposed reduction would be in two programs: Airspace Systems (down $26 million) and Fundamental Aeronautics (down $34 million). The House and Senate committees recommended $515 million and $500 million respectively. The omnibus bill would provide $500 million. The 2008 authorization act authorizes $853 million and directs NASA to align its Fundamental Aeronautics program with a set of 51 technology challenges identified by the National Research Council.11 According to NASA, 47 of those challenges are “well represented” in NASA’s current and proposed aeronautics research portfolio, and that portfolio is also “closely aligned” with the 2007 national aeronautics R&D plan.12 The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided an additional $150 million for system-level R&D and demonstration activities related to aviation safety, environmental mitigation, and the Next Generation Air Transportation System. 11 National Research Council, Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics: Foundation for the Future, June 2006, http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11664.html. 12 Executive Office of the President, National Science and Technology Council, National Plan for Aeronautics Research and Development and Related Infrastructure, December 2007, http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov/releases/ aero_rd_plan_final_21_dec_2007.pdf. Congressional Research Service 5 National Aeronautics and Space Administration The Space Shuttle and the International Space Station Construction of the ISS, suspended after the Columbia disaster in February 2003, resumed in September 2006. NASA plans six shuttle flights in 2009-2010 to complete the ISS, plus one mission in 2009 to service the Hubble Space Telescope.13 Two additional flights in 2010 to supply the ISS with spare parts were formerly considered “contingency” flights. The 2008 authorization act requires those flights to be flown before the shuttle is retired and directs NASA to add an additional flight to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the ISS, if that can be done before the end of 2010. The 2008 authorization act also directs NASA to suspend any activity that would preclude the continued operation of the space shuttle after FY2010, if the President were to decide to delay its scheduled retirement. The gap between the end of shuttle flights in 2010 and the expected availability of Orion in 2015 raises several issues. Some analysts are concerned that placing a fixed termination date on the shuttle may create schedule pressure similar to that identified as a contributing factor in the Columbia disaster. Some question whether the United States should be dependent on Russia to launch U.S. astronauts to the ISS during the gap period. 14 A major concern is how NASA will retain its skilled workforce during the transition from shuttle to Orion, especially if Orion’s schedule slips and the gap lengthens. Former Administrator Griffin testified in late 2007 that Orion’s first flight could be moved forward to September 2013 at the cost of an additional $2 billion.15 The 2008 authorization act authorizes $1 billion for this purpose in FY2009, but the House and Senate committees recommended no additional funds, and the omnibus bill would provide none. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, however, provided an additional $400 million for this purpose. Considering the modest ISS research agenda that remains, some observers have questioned whether completing the ISS is worth the cost—about $2 billion per year plus about $3 billion per year for the shuttle and $1 billion per year of indirect costs in the Cross-Agency Support account. Alternatively, some policymakers want to restore the ISS research program: for example, the House recommendation for ESMD included $50 million, nearly double the request, for research on the ISS; the 2005 authorization act directs that 15% of ISS research spending be used for nonVision-related research; and the 2008 authorization act authorizes an additional $100 million for ISS research utilization and directs NASA to extend ISS availability through at least 2020. Some observers consider it essential to fulfill U.S. commitments to its international partners in the ISS (Russia, Japan, Canada, and 10 countries in Europe); others find this rationale insufficient to justify the expense. As the ISS completion date in late 2010 approaches, this debate is becoming less prominent. 13 “Consolidated Launch Manifest,” online at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/iss_manifest.html, updated February 13, 2009. 14 The Russian Soyuz is the only currently available alternative to the space shuttle for carrying humans. In order to contract for Soyuz service to the ISS, NASA needed an exemption from the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act. This exemption was extended to 2016 by P.L. 110-329. For details, see CRS Report RL34477, Extending NASA’s Exemption from the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act, by Carl E. Behrens and Mary Beth Nikitin. 15 Michael D. Griffin, testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Subcommittee on Space, Aeronautics, and Related Sciences, November 15, 2007. Congressional Research Service 6 National Aeronautics and Space Administration The FY2009 request includes $5.775 billion for the Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD), which consists of the space shuttle, the ISS, and the Space and Flight Support program. A requested decrease of $285 million for the space shuttle is largely offset by a requested increase of $247 million for the ISS. Both are consistent with NASA’s previous projections: they reflect the trend toward the shuttle program’s completion in 2010 and the planned construction schedule of the ISS. The requested increase for Space and Flight Support mostly reflects the transfer of the Deep Space and Near Earth Networks from SMD. The House and Senate committees recommended $5.765 billion and $5.775 billion respectively. The 2008 authorization act authorizes $6.075 billion, including $150 million for the additional shuttle flight to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. The omnibus bill would provide $5.765 billion. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided no additional funds for SOMD. Author Contact Information Daniel Morgan Analyst in Science and Technology Policy dmorgan@crs.loc.gov, 7-5849 Congressional Research Service Carl E. Behrens Specialist in Energy Policy cbehrens@crs.loc.gov, 7-8303 7