The President’s FY12 NASA Budget funding for the Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), sometimes referred by its old name, Orion, and the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket (SLS) could easily give someone the impression that he’s ready to support human space exploration beyond low earth orbit, where we’ve been stuck since 1972. Well, that is until one considers that both MPCV and SLS get a substantial funding cut over the amounts recommended by by Congress in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. Or that neither program has funding beyond 2012. In other words, the President’s budget cuts both programs in 2012 and then kills them in 2013. That isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement by the President of Congress’ vision for our nation’s human space exploration program.
The amounts authorized in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act (Sec. 101) for MPCV (Orion) and SLS (Ares V) are $1.12B and $1.631B respectively. The appropriated funding (FY2010 Approp. Continuing Resolution, Sec. 1333, p. 214) for MPCV and SLS is $1.2B and $1.8B.
The additional funding appropriated for MPCV and SLS did not come because of appeals from White House or NASA. The additional money appropriated came from Rep. Wolf, Sen. Mikulski, Sen. Hutchison and Sen. Shelby, among other members of Congress on the Appropriations Committee of each chamber. It may be the case that Congress took to heart NASA’s insistence in January 2011 that authorized amounts for MPCV and SLS were insufficient. Let’s hope NASA leadership continues to complain about not having enough money to build Orion and the SLS.
To know how the President feels about MPCV and SLS, all we need to do is just look at his proposed fiscal year 2012 (FY12) NASA Budget. Authorized funding (2010 NASA Auth. Act, Sec. 102) is $1.4B and $2.65B for MPCV and SLS respectively.
The President’s proposed funding for MPCV and SLS for FY12 is $1.0102B and $1.8B, or $0.6102B and $0.85B, totaling $1.4602B, less than what Congress has authorized for those programs. In fact, the President’s cut to both programs is more than the amount authorized for the Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle alone.
And if one notes, the President’s 2012 NASA Budget contains no funding for either MPCV or SLS. So, under the White House plan, in 2013 both programs would join Constellation on the ash heap of space exploration.