(Washington, DC)  At a House Science Committee hearing today on the FY07 federal budget request for NASA’s Science programs, Committee Democrats expressed grave concern for the future of space and Earth science research at the agency.

“NASA’s science programs have helped to nurture and develop generations of scientists and engineers through university-based research, participation in space science missions and data analysis,” stated Ranking Member Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN).  “But NASA’s proposed budget plan puts all of that at serious risk.”

NASA’s FY05 budget assumed healthy growth rates in NASA’s space and Earth science programs, yet subsequent budgets have fallen far short of expectations – roughly $4 billion short.  According to the projections laid out in the FY07 NASA budget, space and Earth science programs will lose purchasing power on an annual basis for the next five years.

“I am committed to equipping U.S. schools, teachers and students with the tools they need to compete in the global marketplace, yet these proposed cuts to NASA science run directly counter to the spirit and intent of the President’s own American Competitiveness Initiative,” added Rep. Gordon.  “And no one here today has relieved my fear that this budget situation won’t be remedied any time soon.”

Aside from NASA’s own witness at today’s hearing, panelists were unanimous in their belief that the proposed budget cuts to NASA science – particularly in the areas of research and analysis, and the Explorer program – will do significant long term damage to the health of the Agency’s science program and stymie efforts to train and develop the next generation of scientists and engineers.

“NASA’s science activities all have the potential to advance our knowledge, inspire our youth, and improve the quality of life here on Earth,” added Space Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO).  “In many respects NASA’s science programs are the Agency’s intellectual ‘seed corn,’ yet some of these cuts are damaging the university-based research that is critical to training the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

Science Democrats noted that the FY07 budget numbers regarding NASA science not only prove wrong the Administration’s assurances in 2004 that the Vision for Space Exploration would be ‘affordable and sustainable,’ they cut programs below what NASA said would be needed to carry them out under the Vision and continue shifting significant funds away from science and aeronautics. 

“Maximizing the nation’s scientific investment should be a prime determinant of NASA’s approach to human exploration, not an after-the-fact justification.  Our scientists and researchers depend on consistency and careful planning to maintain U.S. preeminence in space and Earth science.  This budget proposal will make that impossible,” concluded Rep. Gordon.