The Science Mission Directorate (SMD) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
would see a significant 5.6 percent decrease for FY 2009 to $4.4 billion, compared
with the enacted FY 2008 level through Public Law 110-161 (2008 Omnibus Appropriations
Act). The budget initiates the Joint Dark Energy Mission (funded together with
DOE) in 2009.
The National Science Foundation (NSF)
top line budget authority grows by 13.6 percent to $6.9 billion for FY 2009, compared
to the enacted FY 2008 level, returning to a doubling path provided in America
COMPETES Act and the American Competitiveness Initiative, after NSF failed to
achieve any real increases in the FY 2008 Omnibus bill. The proposed FY 2009 budget
contains $250 million for the Astronomical Sciences Division (AST),
an increase of 14.8 percent over the FY 2008 omnibus level.
The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science receives
an R&D budget of $4.3 billion for FY 2009, an increase of 20.7 percent over
the final FY 2008 level. DOE Science, along with NSF and the National Institute
of Standards and Technology (NIST), benefits from the President’s American Competitiveness
Initiative (ACI), which seeks to double the total funding for these three agencies
by 2016. While those increases did not survive in the FY 2008 Omnibus budget,
sharp increases are proposed for FY 2009.
is one of the most exciting and dynamic fields of science, and astronomical research
in the past few decades has literally changed our understanding of the Universe.
The most ancient of the sciences, astronomy began with the earliest recorded history,
when the sky was first observed and debated. Only in modern times have we truly
discovered our place in the Universe—we live on a relatively small planet orbiting
a rather normal star in an average galaxy.
in this century, astronomers have determined how the chemical elements that make
up our Earth (and life on it) were formed in supernova explosions and aging giant
stars. Astronomers have managed to trace the history of the Universe back to its
very first moments when all matter and light were compressed into a dense energetic
state that rapidly expanded (for as yet unknown reasons) forming our Universe.
This cosmic explosion is now known as the Big Bang.
of the most cutting-edge scientific discoveries in recent years have come from
astronomy. In the past decade, astronomers have discovered that the Universe is
expanding faster and faster in a kind of “runaway” situation, identified and characterized
planets around other stars (raising interest in detecting Earth-like planets around
other stars), and found that roughly 96 percent of the matter and energy content
of the Universe is completely unknown to us.
new discovery raises more questions and creates new technological needs, thus
spawning creativity and innovation. Astronomy is truly an exciting, vibrant science
that adds meaning to our human existence, captures the public’s imagination, and
inspires young people to pursue careers in science and technology.
provides roughly 75 percent of the federal funding for
astronomical research in the United States. When the budget for the Science Mission Directorate
of NASA is changed, many American astronomers can be affected, not to mention
the workers in the aerospace industry who build the spacecraft that make these
missions possible. NASA continues to provide observing opportunities for astronomers
beyond the hindering absorption of the Earth’s atmosphere.
provides approximately two-thirds of all federal support for ground-based astronomy,
including nearly all support for radio astronomy. NSF
funds the construction and operation of the U.S. National Observatories. These
observatories play a critical role for researchers from smaller institutions for
which large observing facilities are too expensive to construct and operate. They
also provide access for American astronomers to the Southern hemisphere sky, where
many important astronomical objects are located and cannot be observed from Northern
hemisphere locations (e.g. the Magellanic Clouds, our nearest galactic
the Department of Energy (DOE) has undertaken new astronomical research projects,
and the Smithsonian Institution and the Department of Defense also fund astronomical
research, though on a much smaller scale than both NASA and NSF.
traditional, but arbitrary, split in funding exists between NASA and NSF with
NASA funding mostly space-based observing
and NSF funding mostly ground-based.
This line is often blurred, since both agencies support balloon-based observing
and other cross-cutting research. NASA does support ground-based observing when
these activities have a direct supporting role for their space missions. A recent
example is the Keck Interferometer. Additionally,
DOE has begun collaborations with both the NSF and NASA on astronomy-related projects,
such as the Joint Dark Energy Mission, one early mission idea being represented
by the Supernova Acceleration Probe (SNAP). The
Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee
(AAAC) meets regularly to discuss and advise on the best and most efficient ways
for agencies to collaborate on astronomy research.
Astronomy in the NASA Budget
overall NASA budget would increase from $17.1 billion in the FY 2008 final estimate
to $17.6 billion for FY 2009, a 2.9 percent increase. (All figures for the NASA
budget can be found in Table II-12.)
agency is focused on implementing the priorities set out by the NASA Authorization
Act of 2005 and the Vision for Space Exploration.
Major priorities include the completing the International Space Station, retiring
the Space Shuttle by 2010, and transitioning to the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle
and Ares launch vehicle.
The agency’s task to implement the President’s
Vision for Space Exploration without incurring a large gap in U.S. capability to place humans
in orbit has placed significant pressure on other parts of the agency, given the
assumption of a nearly flat budgetary growth. In addition to an ambitious program
of exploration, NASA is also charged with continuing its mission of scientific
discovery. Currently, NASA manages 55 spacecraft conducting scientific research,
with 15 additional science launches by the end of FY 2009.
The top line NASA/SMD budget would decrease from
$4.7 billion in FY 2008 to $4.4 billion in FY 2009, a decrease of 5.6 percent. A portion of this decrease
is due to the transfer of the Deep and Near Earth Networks to Space and Flight
Support. Excluding that $256 million, the SMD budget decreases 0.3 percent in
the overall SMD budget faces cuts, Earth Science and Planetary science see very
small increases, while Astrophysics and especially Heliophysics face decreasing
decreases by 13.1 percent over the FY 2008 level, to $1.2 billion. The astrophysics
portfolio is dominated by development of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)
and Cosmic Origins programs. Programs seeing increases within Astrophysics include
the Astrophysics Explorer program, primarily for the NuSTAR black hole detection
mission, and SOFIA, an aircraft-carried infrared telescope that will begin science
operations in 2009. Astrophysics Research sees a 49 percent increase, including
a 22 percent increase for Research and Analysis.
Science sees an increase of 6.8 percent over the FY 2008 level to $1.4 billion,
including funds for implementing three new missions by 2013 in response to the
Earth Decadal Study.
decreases to $577 million in FY 2009 from $840.9 million in FY 2008. However,
the bulk of this is due to a transfer of the Deep Space and Near Earth Networks
to Space and Flight Support, outside of SMD. Excluding that portion of the budget,
Heliophysics sees a 2.3 percent decrease in FY 2009 from the enacted FY 2008 budget.
The New Millennium project is designed to test new flight technologies within
SMD. The entire budget line is being reallocated into other areas within SMD.
Science increases by 6.9 percent to $1.3 billion. The Mars Scout 2011 mission
is delayed to 2013 and an Outer Planet Flagship mission is added. This represents
a sharp decrease in funding on Mars missions, bringing the total budget for Mars
Exploration from $553.5 million in FY 2008 to $386.5 million in FY 2009. Within
Planetary science, there are increases to the Outer Planets, Discovery, and New
overall NASA budget increases 2.9 percent, with NASA maintaining a wide range
of responsibilities in both space exploration and science. The budgetary pressure
leads to reductions in Science, Aeronautics, and Education, as Exploration and
Space Operations require budget increases. Testimony on the Hill from a variety
indicates that NASA’s budget is insufficient for its many missions, both in human
space flight and science. (For more on the NASA budget, see Chapter
Astronomy in the NSF Budget
total NSF budget is slated to increase to $6.9 billion for FY 2009, an increase
of 13.6 percent. NSF is one of three agencies singled out for increased funding
as part of the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), and through
the American COMPETES Act, although higher congressional appropriations did not
materialize in the FY 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. (See Table
II-7 for NSF funding details.)
impact of the FY 2008 Omnibus bill, which raised NSF funding agency-wide only
1.4 percent, had significant consequences for the entire agency, including 1000
fewer new research grants, 230 fewer Graduate Research Fellowships and, specifically
to astronomy, flat funding of grants for astrophysics. In addition, a planned
infusion of money to the National Optical Astronomical Observatory for refurbishing
of facilities was deferred.
funds astronomy through the Astronomical Sciences Division (AST).
AST funds astronomy in two major ways—research and education grants to individuals
and large collaborations, and through major facilities, such as the International
Gemini Observatory and the four national astronomy R&D
centers, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), the National Optical Astronomy
Observatories (NOAO), the National Solar Observatory (NSO), and the National Astronomy and
Ionosphere Center (NAIC).
AST would grow in the President’s
FY 2009 budget by 14.8 percent to $250 million over the estimated FY 2008 amount
of $218 million. From FY 2007 to FY 2008, AST increased by only 1.1 percent. This
trend reflects the desire of the Administration to return NSF to a doubling path
provided in the America COMPETES Act and the ACI. 20 percent of the AST portfolio
will be available for new grants in FY 2008, with 54 percent allocated to facilities,
and the remainder commitments to previous grants awarded, instrumentation, education
and outreach, and centers.
The Research and Education Grants
portion of AST’s budget would increase from $92.8 million in FY 2008 to $112.4
million in FY 2009 (21.1 percent increase), representing the bulk of the increase
in the division. AST continues to support a wide range of investigations, ranging
from the detection of extrasolar planets to the origin of the Universe, as well
as numerous education and outreach activities. The FY 2009 budget also includes
support for technology development for the Large-Aperture Synoptic Survey Telescope
Astronomy Facilities would see an
increase of $13.3 million over FY 2008 to $135 million. NSF continues to implement
the recommendations of the Senior Review
of AST facilities. AST is employing this process to evaluate the cost effectiveness
of its facilities and to determine how to manage its current portfolio of facilities
in order to achieve the priorities outlined in the National Research Council (NRC)
Decadal Survey (Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium)
while maintaining core programs.
Changes to the budget for astrophysics
include an increase of $2 million for the Gemini Observatory to fund new advanced
instrumentation an increase of $2 million. NOAO receives an increase of $3.3 million
(8.5 percent) to continue to implement the Senior Review recommendations, which
include improving infrastructure and reducing other lower priority programs. The
Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) receives a 43.2 percent increase over FY
2008, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory sees a $5.3 million increase
Research Grants Programs are the
highest priority for maintaining the AST portfolio, emphasizing the scientific
priorities outlined in the Decadal Survey, and supporting the goals of “Physics
of the Universe,”written by the National
Science and Technology Council.
Gemini and ALMA are AST’s most important priorities in the realm of current facilities.
contributes to the American Competitiveness Initiative and the America COMPETES
Act by increasing the emphasis on intermediate-scale instrumentation, and developing
programs in universities on astronomical instrumentation to allow students and
faculty to collaborate with industry and other national facilities.
is also supported within the NSF budget through the Office of Polar Programs
(OPP), Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) and Multidisciplinary
Activities budget lines. The Antarctic Science division of OPP partially funds
the IceCube Neutrino Observatory,
which receives a $3.4 million increase in funding from OPP in FY 2009. (For more
on the NSF budget, see Chapter 6.)
Astronomy Elsewhere in the Budget
the Navy and Air Force fund fundamental astronomical research for a variety of
reasons related to national security. The Navy operates the United States Naval
provides important astrometric observations as well as maintaining the Time Services
Department for the United States. While the money spent at the Navy and Air Force is
small compared to NSF or NASA, it is important as it often represents multidisciplinary
involvement in astrophysical research.
Department of Energy also funds astrophysical research under its Office of Science.
One example is the Joint Dark Energy Mission, funded together with NASA. Support
for R&D within High Energy Physics increases from $689 million to $805 million
(16.8 percent). (All figures for the DOE budget can be found in Table