Bush budget boosts Mars, douses Pluto, Earth
(CNN) -- While giving a boost to Mars exploration, the proposed 2002 budget for NASA would scrap a mission to Pluto, tighten the reins on the international space station and cut programs that monitor world climate changes.
The Bush administration budget offers $14.5 billion to NASA, marking only the second time in eight years that its proposed funding increased. But better funding to some missions meant painful cuts to others.
"We wanted the funds to mount a more aggressive Mars exploration program. We got the funds, but the offset came from canceling Pluto-Kuiper Express and Solar Probe," NASA chief Daniel Goldin said.
NASA tried to eliminate the Pluto probe late last year, but hesitated after the Planetary Society waged a campaign to save the program.
Scientists had hoped the spacecraft would reach the remote planet in the next decade, before Pluto's tenuous atmosphere went into a seasonal deep freeze that lasts more than 100 years.
The proposed Solar Probe would have launched in 2007. Billed as the first exploration mission to the sun's corona, it would have flown through the sun's atmosphere.
Despite its drawbacks, Goldin expressed satisfaction with the spending package.
"The President's budget provides a 2 percent increase in funding for NASA at a time many other federal agencies are getting less," he told reporters on Monday.
JSC would lose control of Alpha
The manned international space station would have funding cutbacks under the proposed budget. U.S. contributions would drop $25 million to space station Alpha, long plagued by delays and cost overruns.
The spending package scraps a technically floundering prototype of a space station lifeboat and a planned habitation module that would have increased Alpha's occupancy from three to seven.
Perhaps most significant, the spending outline would "transfer space station management reporting from the Johnson Space Center in Texas to NASA headquarters until a new program management plan is developed and approved," according to the proposed budget.
"It would only be for a few months. What we're looking at is just a higher level of cost reporting and management oversight through NASA headquarters," agency spokeswoman Kirsten Larson said.
The Bush plan, however, leaves many unanswered questions about the future of the space station, including how to spend its $2 billion allocation in fiscal year 2002, which begins October 1, 2001.
Most programs include specific line item spending amounts but the space station has only an asterisk, which explains that Alpha's funds "are currently under review and allocations -- will be determined subsequent to program assessments."
The White House plan would remove $207 million from the overall budget of NASA's Earth Science program, which uses satellites to study the effects of natural and human-induced changes on the global environment.
Goldin remained upbeat, noting that at least one Earth Science initiative would receive more funding.
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