The NASA (National Aeronautic Space Administration) budget for FY 2014 is $17.6 billion. Congress approved this level, slightly less than the $17.7 billion in the President's budget. Congress gave NASA an increase of $120 million above the FY 2013 actual spending level. Congress was sure to approve the $4.1 billion for space exploration, including the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System flight program.
What Does the NASA Budget Provide?
The biggest news in the NASA budget was the retirement of the space shuttle Discovery. Instead, NASA will focus on the Space Launch System. This heavy-lift rocket is being designed to carry astronauts to Mars and even asteroids. The Orion crew capsule that will carry the astronauts is planned to for its initial test launch in 2014. NASA will partner with the commercial space industry to shuttle crew and cargo to the space station. It has budgeted $830 million for this partnership. NASA will continue to support research in the space station.
The other big news is a mission to actually capture a small asteroid and possibly place it on the moon for astronauts to study.
NASA will continue to support the new James Webb Space Telescope, planned to launch in 2018. It will replace the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA's budget will support the develop of new technology, such as a laser-based communication system and a zero-gravity propellant transfer. It provides $1.8 billion to revamp the Landsat program, and develop climate sensors for the Joint Polar Satellite System. (Source: NASA, NASA Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request , April 10, 2013)
How Does NASA's Cost Affect the Economy?
A report by the Space Foundation estimated that NASA contributed $180 billion to the economy in 2005. More than 60% of this came from commercial goods and services created by companies related from space technology. This means that each dollar of NASA spending creates $10 of benefit in the economy. NASA spending created the satellite communications which allows not only radio and television, but also telemedicine, GPS navigation, weather forecasts, and defense.
A 2002 study by Professor H.R. Hertzfeld of George Washington University showed there is a large return to the companies work with NASA on its research contracts. These companies are able to commercialize the products developed and market them. The 15 companies studied received $1.5 billion in benefits from a NASA R&D investment of $64 million.
Small companies didn't receive as much benefit, because they didn't have the ability to market the technology on a larger scale. The study concludes that NASA could create greater economic benefit by continuing the relationship with the companies they work with. NASA could also help open additional financial and marketing doors for these companies.
These benefits trickle down to everyday life. Since 1976, there were 1,400 NASA inventions that wound up as products or services,such as kidney dialysis machines, CAT scanners, and even freeze-dried food.
How Does NASA Funding Compare to Other Departments?
This amount is $1 billion less than what was spent in FY 2010. It's also much less than these other departments:
- Defense (including State, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs) - $618 billion.
- Health and Human Services - $78.3 billion.
- Education - $71.2 billion.
- Housing and Urban Development - $33.1 billion.
- Energy - $28.4 billion.
- Agriculture - $21.5 billion.
On the other hand, NASA funding is larger than all other departments, including Justice ($16.3 billion), Transportation ($16.3 billion) and Treasury ($12.9 billion). Furthermore, almost all departments have seen their budgets slashed to reduce the Federal deficit and debt. Although NASA's budget has been cut, its percentage of discretionary spending has actually grown -- from 1% in 2010 to 1.4% in 2014. Therefore, NASA's priority ranking hasn't dropped, even though its budget has. (Source: OMB, FY 2014 Budget, Table S-11)
Article updated January 17, 2014