NASA warns that funding for planetary science has fallen below 10-year projections
WASHINGTON — As NASA takes the first steps to implement the recommendations of its decade-long study of planetary science, NASA warns that its funding plans, at least for the near future, have fallen short of the report’s projections.
NASA’s Office of Planetary Science held a virtual town hall on August 18 to discuss the first 90 days of responses to the Planetary Science Decade, which was announced in April. The report recommends that NASA continue development of the Mars Sample Return as its flagship mission and pursue new flagship missions to Saturn’s icy moons Uranus and Enceladus.
The decade included two funding profiles. From FY23 to FY2032 he was projected to spend $41.1 billion on planetary science in the “Recommended Program”. This is enough to start work on the Uranus flagship early in that decade, and then on the Enceladus mission. The “Level Program” predicted he would spend $35 billion over the same period. This is enough to start work on Uranus’ flagship later in the decade, but not Enceladus’ flagship.
At the Town Hall, Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said NASA’s budget projections aren’t even up to the level program. In the 10-year Level Program, NASA’s planetary science spending will increase to more than $3.5 billion annually by the middle of the decade, while projections included in NASA’s FY23 budget request call for $3.2 billion annually through 2026. Spending just below the dollar will be maintained. It will increase to $3.3 billion by 2027.
“We have to remember that the current planning budget that we have now is short of the level budget,” she said. I’m trying to set expectations about.”
She said both the bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee in June and the Senate bill would provide about $3.2 billion in 2023 for NASA’s planetary science program, and agency commissions.
“This decade has been an exciting one and we will continue to advocate for funding to support our ambitious research goals,” she said. Pushed slightly to the right. ”
One example is the Uranus Orbiter and Probe flagship mission recommended in the decade. With its recommended budget, it could start almost immediately and take advantage of Jupiter’s gravitational assist to reduce travel time, so it could launch in the early 2030s. Uranus.
“We’re really excited about this,” Grays said of the mission concept, but said NASA would take a slightly slower approach to its development. and various options for the mission are considered. “That timeline is that he’ll probably launch by the early 2030s.”
Glaze added that NASA is supporting Enceladus Orbilander, another new flagship recommended for the decade. “Guidance from 10 years of research makes it very clear that Uranus needs to start first,” she said, not expecting mission research for the Enceladus flagship by fiscal year 2026.
NASA is still evaluating other aspects of the decade-long investigation. Among them are recommendations for missions such as the lunar rover called Endurance-A, which will collect samples for later return to Earth by manned Artemis missions, and the Mars Astrobiological Landing Mission, called Mars Life Her Explorer. increase. .
Supported approval for a decade for the NEO Surveyor mission to search for near-Earth asteroids, even though the FY23 budget proposal cut mission funding and delayed the 2026 launch by at least two years. Officials at the agency say his 10-year budget was announced weeks after the 2023 budget proposal.
“Funding in 2023 is a challenge,” said Glaze. “We will work hard to confirm the mission and transition to NEO Surveyor.”
NASA is also working on another 10-year recommendation to continue the Mars exploration program beyond the Mars sample return mission. In its response, the agency plans to complete by the end of the year a “comprehensive architecture” for the program that can run in parallel with the Mars sample return, drawing on insights from previous studies that recommended conducting a series of missions. It said it plans to implement Mars Science.
But NASA has rejected a decade of recommendations to develop similar scientific exploration strategies for other solar system destinations, such as Venus and the outer solar system ‘sea worlds’. Such strategies should be developed by the scientific community through existing advisory committees, he said, Glaze said. “He’s really excited that this decade is focused on questions rather than destinations. He wants to focus on the key issues identified in the decade.”