Stimulus Money Used to Cover Overruns, Not to Accelerate Earth Science Decadal Survey Missions

Stimulus Money Used to Cover Overruns, Not to Accelerate Earth Science Decadal Survey Missions

Berrien Moore, Director of Climate Central and a member of the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Space Studies Board, testified to the House Science and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics that the additional funds provided for NASA’s earth science missions in the stimulus bill have been spent on cost overruns for existing missions, not to accelerate missions recommended by the NRC’s earth science decadal survey. In his written statement, he said:

“The latest budget has the first decadal survey mission (SMAP) launching in late 2013 or early 2014, with a second (ICESat-II) launching in late 2014 or early 2015. In contrast, the decadal survey had recommended launching four missions by 2013. It is my understanding that CLARREO is to be launched in 2019 (12 years after the release of the Decadal Survey). So, what happened? Put simply, the needed budget increase did not happen and existing programs overran. To remain within the allocated profile, NASA stretched out the program.

“The Stimulus monies, even though it states an objective of accelerating decadal survey missions, does not seem to be having the intended effect, unless one argues that it prevented further delays. Tracking NASA’s weekly reports on its recovery act website, it does not appear any activity has occurred related to the decadal survey missions; indeed the FY10 budget indicates SMAP and ICESat-II will likely slip rather than accelerate. Perhaps there is more detail in the operations plan that NASA has been preparing, but this is not yet public.”

The subcommittee recessed the hearing at 10:45 for votes on the House floor and will reconvene at 1:30 pm.

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