A Budget Message from Alan Stern Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate


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A month ago today I wrote you an email via NSPIRES about the work being done in NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) to invigorate the flight and research programs we're administering.

Although there was good news to talk about then, I could not discuss the content of the President's FY09 budget request and what that budget portends for SMD.

The President's FY09 budget was released today, so I am writing you again.

The news for NASA is good - we enjoyed a 1.8% funding increase that many other discretionary parts of the budget did not - and all of NASA's major programs are intact. As you can learn from reading budget documentation at http://www.nasa.gov, there are a host of important initiatives within NASA's budget request.

But in this message I want to focus on the highlights of the FY09 budget request as it affects SMD, and to be to the point: that news is also good.

To begin, the FY09 President's request augments two areas of SMD's budget significantly - Earth science and lunar science. More specifically, the budget request includes new initiatives to accelerate the recommended flight missions of the Earth Science Decadal Survey (NRC, 2007), and to fly small lunar science missions that respond to goals of the 2007 NRC report, "Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon".

Owing to budget wedges that are opening up as we launch a total of 13 orbital and planetary missions in 2008 and 2009, to some missions that we replanned to gain efficiencies, and to some cost increases that we avoided, the budget request for SMD is able to go beyond the Earth Science and lunar science initiatives I just mentioned, to also initiate missions in planetary science, in astrophysics, and in heliophysics.

In fact the President's budget request allows SMD to initiate 7 new space missions. And it is worth pointing out that this exceeds the number of new SMD missions initiated in the past three NASA budgets combined.

The 7 new missions to be initiated by the President's FY09 budget request span all four of SMD's Divisions; they are:

  • The Earth Science Division's SMAP soil moisture mission for launch in 2012 and IceSat II decadal survey mission for launch in 2015. Three additional Earth science decadal survey missions will be enabled by this budget request as well.
  • The Heliophysics Division's new, lower cost Solar Probe mission for launch in 2015.
  • The Planetary Science Division's long awaited Outer Planets Flagship for launch in 2016 or 2017, depending on the mission target and trajectory.
  • The Astrophysics Division's highly anticipated JDEM dark energy mission for launch by 2015.
  • And two new lunar robotic missions - a small science orbiter to launch by 2011 and a pair of mini-landers for launch by 2014; these lunar missions are to be developed in SMD's Planetary Science Division.

If Congress agrees to these plans, then in FY09 (which begins in October!) you will be seeing a great deal of activity to solicit proposals to select payloads and science teams for these 7 new missions.

The President's budget request also significantly increases R&A funding so that our program generates more discoveries and therefore provides the taxpayer with value from the missions we fly. The budget request also substantially increases funding for suborbital sounding rockets and balloon experiments in order to foster PI on-ramps, instrument technology demonstrations, and of course new science.

To learn more, you can find many details at http://www.nasa.gov . Additionally we in SMD will be talking about this new budget at the next round of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) and NAC subcommittee meetings, at MOWGs, with the leadership of professional societies such as the AGU, AAS, DPS, and AMS, and at upcoming large scientific gatherings such as LPSC, AAS, and AGU.

The primary message I hope you have received from this note is that the future that the President's FY09 budget request paints is bright for SMD.

As I said in my message of January 4th, we continue to look to the Earth and space science research communities for advice, counsel, feedback, and most importantly, new results as we go forward, so I again invite that advice through your NAC subcommittees and professional societies.

I hope to see many of you in meetings and other venues in the coming weeks. In the meantime, best wishes.

Alan Stern

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