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Planetary Exploration Newsletter Editorial: Who Is Minding Planetary Research?

By Keith Cowing
April 14, 2013
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Planetary Exploration Newsletter Editorial: Who Is Minding Planetary Research?

On April 4, NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green addressed the Planetary Science Subcommittee about sequestration and rescission. I noted two statements repeatedly made: he did not see planetary research programs maintaining their budgets under rescission, and $75M added by Congress for Europa in FY13 is “the law!”
House Appropriations staff say rescissions are to be applied “across the board,” constrained by NASA Administrative Provisions in the FY13 budget bill. A simple calculation: The annual PSD budget for the first half of FY13 was $1.19B. Congress increased this to $1.415B for the full year. To get back below $1.19B, possibly impacting research, requires rescission >35%! This does not seem likely.

$75M represents ~50% of the total budget for annually competed planetary research programs in ROSES. Some core planetary research programs still suffer from record low selection rates (primarily due to unexplained budget cuts, not proposal pressure) and long delays in awards.

The Administration and both houses of Congress openly support the planetary research programs, as demonstrated by proposed and appropriated budgets. It is PSD management that undermines their intent.

Stop treating planetary research as a slush fund.

Mark V. Sykes

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.