Yesterday, by a party-line vote, Republicans in the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology approved a budget authorization for NASA that would see continued spending on Orion and the Space Launch System but slash the agency’s budget for Earth sciences. This vote follows the committee’s decision to cut the NSF’s geoscience budget and comes after a prominent attack on NASA’s Earth sciences work during a Senate hearing, all of which suggests a concerted campaign against the researchers who, among other things, are telling us that climate change is a reality.
The recently approved budget would cover 2016 and 2017, and it contains two scenarios based on the degree to which the overall budget is constrained. An analysis of the bill shows that it would keep spending in line with the Obama administration’s request but shift money from basic sciences to human exploration. The Orion crewed capsule and Space Launch System rocket would both see an addition of hundreds of millions of dollars. Planetary science would also see a boost of nearly $150 million.
But the love of planets doesn’t extend to our own. The added spending is offset by a huge drop in spending on Earth science, from $1.947 billion under Obama’s proposal to $1.45 billion under the optimistic budget. If budget constraints kick in, it would drop to $1.2 billion—a cut of nearly 40 percent. Development of space technology would also take a hit of about $125 million.
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