President Obama's proposed 2014 budget includes $105 million to begin plans for an asteroid mission by 2025. Following NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden's presentation of the president's budget, Dryden Director David McBride went through the main elements of the center's proposed funding. (NASA/Tom Tschida)
› View Larger Image Bruce Willis and the simultaneous launch of two space shuttles are some of the first thoughts conjured by a mission to an asteroid. That was Hollywood's take on what such a mission would entail in the 1998 film "Armageddon."
In a departure from the science fiction film's crusade to save Earth from a wayward asteroid, NASA's ambitious plan is to develop the first-ever mission to identify, capture and relocate a 500-ton asteroid by 2025. The asteroid mission was a key highlight of President Barack Obama's proposed fiscal year 2014 $17.7 billion NASA budget, which NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden presented April 10.
To meet Obama's challenge, NASA will integrate its science, technology and human exploration capabilities to use what its missions have learned about living and working in space, Bolden said. The asteroid mission is intended to be a precursor of a manned Mars mission Obama called for by 2030, he added.
The proposed budget includes $105 million for NASA to capitalize on existing efforts across the agency and begin planning the mission. For example, identification and characterization work is underway to determine candidate asteroids, according to NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot's presentation at the NASA budget briefing.
NASA's solar electric propulsion could be the method of moving a small asteroid into a stable orbit in the Earth-moon system where astronauts could more safely land on the asteroid, Lightfoot said. Robotic servicing techniques developed for space shuttle and International Space Station operations could be used for capturing an asteroid and the NASA Space Launch System and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle in development could be used for astronauts to rendezvous with an asteroid, he added.
Full details of the president's proposed 2014 budget for NASA and the asteroid initiative are available at www.nasa.gov/news/budget
Closer to home, Center Director David McBride detailed elements of the proposed $262 million Dryden budget following the presentation from NASA Headquarters officials. Fiscal year 2013 numbers are not yet available for comparison, so fiscal year 2012 figures were used to give perspective to the proposed budget. Dryden's budget in 2012 was $253 million.
The president's proposed budget, which would have to be approved by Congress to become law, relies on decreases in other areas of the federal budget and new revenue to accommodate the intent of sequestration budget cuts, NASA officials explained.
Dryden's proposed science budget totals $72 million for support of Earth science observations from aircraft, with an emphasis on climate change. Funding also includes the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy aircraft and resources to accelerate Earth Science Venture Class missions. The difference from the $70.7 million allocated for science in 2012 is the SOFIA's move to operational status.
Aeronautics research is proposed to receive $61 million for 2014 and that includes contributions to aviation safety, fundamental aeronautics research and aeronautics test capabilities related to flight operations and test infrastructure. Dryden's Aeronautics budget was $66.6 million in 2012. The difference is the result of completion of X-48C flights in 2013 and decreased funding for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the National Airspace System, McBride said.
Dryden is proposed to have $25 million for Space Technology. The main elements of that funding include the center's management of the Flight Opportunities Program for the agency, the Dryden Innovation Fund, and the disbursement of select Small Business Innovative Research and Small Business Technology Transfer awards. The increase from the 2012 allocation of $18.5 million is a result of additional Flight Opportunities work.
Dryden's Exploration proposed budget of $6 million is up from the 2012 budget amount of $3.8 million. The increase reflects Dryden work on the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. The completion of the Space Shuttle Program in 2013 is why there are no funds for Spaceflight Operations in the proposed 2014 budget.
Proposed funding for Education is set at $800,000, down from $3.9 million in 2012. A restructuring of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in NASA supports the president's STEM consolidation initiative throughout the federal government.
Dryden's cross agency support accounts for $65 million in the proposed budget, compared to a budget of $67 million in 2012. Continued innovative and administrative savings and efficiency initiatives will meet the challenges of reductions in center management and operations funding, McBride said.
Dryden's construction and environmental compliance and restoration accounts for $32 million in the proposed budget, compared to $22.2 million in 2012. Minor center revitalization, facility planning and design and environmental restoration projects are included.