A few days ago, the US House and Senate compromised on a (partial) federal budget, and President Obama signed it into reality. Among many other things, NASA’s budget was in there. Congress has posted an overview of the bill, which I recommend perusing. Space News has an excellent overview of the budget, as does The Planetary Society blog.
The big picture: NASA will get a total of $17.8 billion for fiscal year 2012, which is about $600M less than last year, and over $900M less than what President Obama wanted.
But totals aren’t necessarily as important as specifics. What are the details?
James Webb Space Telescope
As you may recall, the House wanted to ax the James Webb Space Telescope, literally giving it 0 dollars. The Senate wanted to save it. The new funding just passed gives NASA’s Science Directorate a total of $5.1 billion, which is an increase over last year by about $150 million. That sounds great, but this total includes $530 million for JWST to keep it going.
I’m glad that the project won’t be canceled, but I’m very concerned about the source of that money. I can do that math. All things being equal, a $150M increase with $530M dedicated to JWST means NASA will have to cut other programs to the tune of $380 million. The Congressional summary even says this explicitly:
The agreement accommodates cost growth in the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) by making commensurate reductions in other programs, and institutes several new oversight measures for JWST’s continuing development.