Letter: Misplaced Priorities In NASA Budget Plan

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Thank you for publishing the NASA budget plan [“Shrinking NASA Budget Forces Tough Trade-offs,” Feb. 20, page 1]. It is always appreciated when quantitative information is published because it provides a factual reference for critique. There are several comments that can be made about the plan.

First, the mandate of NASA is to do research in the areas of aeronautics and space (astronautics). Unfortunately, it seems to have been decided that NASA can do all science research, astronautical or not.

The two categories for which NASA is mandated would seem to be Aeronautics and Space Technology, (astronautics), which have a total of 7 percent of the budget. Meanwhile, the total Science Mission Directorate budget is 28 percent of the budget.

In addition, Exploration Systems Development, at $2.77 billion, is 16 percent of the NASA budget plan. This amount is mandated by an uninformed Congress insisting on development of a Space Launch System using inefficient and obsolete rocket engines.

Another peculiar item is Cross-Agency Support at $2.84 billion, or 16 percent of the NASA budget. Apparently, there is a large amount of money being spent by multiple centers working on the same or similar projects.

Another item is Construction and Environmental Compliance at $619.2 million, or 3.5 percent of the budget. No breakout is given as to how much is spent on construction and how much is spent on environmental compliance, but it is about 89 percent to 11 percent. This makes sense, since NASA is intending to use space launch contractors who employ inefficient kerosene-fueled rocket engines, which waste 80 percent of the kerosene because they operate at excessively small, fuel-rich mixture ratios. The result is that thousands of pounds of unused kerosene, a hydro-carbon, are dumped into the atmosphere.

Finally, there is an item in the NASA budget for Education at $100 million. I see no reason for NASA to be involved in education. The agency is mandated to be involved in aeronautics and space. It is not the National Aeronautics, Space and Education Administration.

In short, the NASA budget plan seems to be a political hodge-podge.

A rational budget would have a larger portion devoted to astronautics (Space Technology) and less to other science; the National Science Foundation should seek its own budget.

It also would include little or nothing for development of the Space Launch System at this time. Instead, NASA should be developing efficient, advanced performance rocket engines for use on such a system. Budgeting $120 million a year for five years should provide the American public with some bang for its buck — an efficient, advanced performance rocket engine that can be used to explore wherever it is decided to explore in space.

 

Dale Lawrence Jensen

Lawndale , Calif.