Space Ref has published a letter from NASA to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, detailing the effects of sequestration on NASA programs.
NASA's commercial crew program hardest hit
According to an analysis of the NASA letter in the Space Politics blog, sequestration would essentially bring the space agency's effort to develop commercially operated space craft to a halt by summer. The sequestration cuts would extend NASA's reliance on Russia for transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
Other NASA programs impacted
Other NASA programs would be reduced across the board, according to the letter, with the space agency being forced to consider canceling a number of projects. At least one space technology project would have to be canceled, with six others under consideration for the budget ax. A number of flight demonstration projects would have to be eliminated, including "the Deep Space Atomic Clock, Cryogenic Propellant Storage and Transfer and the Materials on International Space Station Experiment-X projects." NASA would also eliminate or descope annual solicitations for Space Technology Research Grants, NASA Innovative Advanced Concept, the Small Spacecraft Technology Program. NASA would consider reducing the number of Flight Opportunity program flights and payloads that could be flown in FY 2013 and beyond. The space agency would likely be forced to eliminate Centennial Challenges funding to perform new prizes.
Space exploration reduced
There would be some impacts on Explorer and Earth Venture Class missions, resulting in some launch delays, the letter states. The development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and the Space Launch System would be cut, but NASA has not articulated what impacts that would have to scheduled test flights.
What sequestration is
According to Idea Money Watch, the sequestration threat developed out of the failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, established by the Budget Control Act of 2011, to come up with a deficit reduction program. Under the act, automatic across-the-board cuts to both domestic and defense spending will take place on March 1 unless Congress and the president are able to agree on a deficit reduction package. An impasse has developed between Congressional Republicans and Democrats over whether tax increases should be included in a deal that would replace sequestration. According to Politico, noting that taxes were already raised as part of the fiscal cliff deal, House Republicans are standing fast on a no new taxes pledge. Because of the Constitution, since tax bills can only originate in the House, Senate Democrats are unable to initiate their own tax bill without House cooperation. Politico further reports that absent a miracle, the GOP insiders have concluded that sequestration will happen.
Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.
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