We strive to increase NASA’s funding to 1% by encouraging popular support for NASA through education and outreach.
We uphold the importance of NASA by highlighting scientific exploration, research and education as paramount to society’s success. NASA’s current budget, at 0.5% of the total U.S. budget, does not reflect the hugely important economic, technological and inspirational resource that this agency has been in its 50+ year history. This is the people saying that as a society, we want our tax dollars to reflect the importance of scientific exploration, research and education; and 0.5% doesn’t cut it. The NASA budget must be increased to at least 1% of the U.S. federal budget.
The Breakdown: What, Why, How?
We’re calling on the Obama administration and the US Congress to increase NASA’s funding from its current level of 0.48% to at least 1% of the US annual budget. NASA contributes massive amounts of economic, technological, and inspirational capital to our nation, and we want their budget to reflect their importance to our society!
NASA contributes to society massively in terms of economic, technological, and inspirational capitol. The bulk of progress we have witnessed in the last 40 years comes from the world’s extremely talented scientists and engineers. Now, talk to most any scientist or engineer of the last 40 years, and we’re willing to bet that they were drawn into their chosen field by something NASA related. And more often than not, they refer to the Apollo, Gemini or Space Shuttle programs where humans were physically advancing a frontier. It’s the human spirit of exploration that drives the world’s greatest technologists to invent the future, today. We want to see to it that the US annual budget allocation for NASA reflects that hugely important role as economic, technological, and inspirational powerhouse.
Penny4NASA serves as the central hub of this community driven movement. To succeed in increasing NASA’s budget, there are a few key attributes that we must maintain. A high number of supporters which can be contacted quickly to act as one voice at the same time; A public presence that consistently reminds the administration and Congress that we want our society to support NASA funding at a higher level, concurrent with the agency’s economic, technological and inspirational excellence; And perhaps most importantly, by consistently and in large numbers, contacting members of Congress to tell them what we want and why we want it. We are the constituents that they count upon for votes, and if we make it clear that this is what we want, they cannot ignore us, unless they happen to be looking for another job.
So, how exactly is NASA funded?
– AKA the hardest part to achieving our goals
NASA, like every other federal administration, is funded on a yearly (October 1 to September 30) basis by Congress. The process, which is complex, imperfect, and more often than not unpredictable, starts with the President releasing his budget request for the following fiscal year in usually the first week of February. This is an important starting point since it effectively tells Congress what the President believes should be the overall fiscal policy of the U.S. in the next budget year, the priorities for individual federal programs, and the spending and tax policies (usually with regards to non-discretionary spending) that will be in place.
After the President’s formal budget request has been received, Congress starts to work through the appropriations process. By drafting and agreeing to what is known as a “Budget Resolution”, the House and Senate lay out the groundwork for a final budget. During this period of deliberation, you will often see Administration officials and experts give testimony before the relevant Congressional committee on a particular piece of budget policy. When operating correctly, the time between the President’s budget request and the passage of the Budget Resolution is roughly two months, and its passage is supposed to occur on the 15th of April.
Once the Budget Resolution is passed, House and Senate Appropriations Committees deal with appropriating money to the federal government at levels set by the resolution. The appropriations committees are comprised of 12 subcommittees each tasked with a certain domain. They are:
- Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
- Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
- Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies
- Financial Services and General Government
- Homeland Security
- Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
- Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
- Legislative Branch
- Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies
- State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
- Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies
NASA, as you may have guessed, is appropriated through the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. Once funding levels are set by the subcommittees, they are either passed as individual spending bills or rolled into one large bill, called an omnibus. From there it goes to the floor of its respective Chamber and, if passed, is sent to the President’s desk for signature.
Quick side note. During the budget process in Congress, you’ll often hear talk of budget “authority” versus “outlays”. Budget authority is simply the amount that has been authorized for a federal agency to spend in a particular budget year, with the outlay being how much is actually spent on the particular thing that is being funded. This is important, especially when talking about NASA, for budget items that often exist for multiple years.
For our purposes, we’re concentrating on a relatively miniscule piece of the overall budget. However, in fiscal years where every single penny is squeezed and scrounged, NASA is more than ever at threat of having its budget cut to drastic levels not seen prior. We hope to achieve, through the authorization and appropriations process, a seismic change in how Congress prioritizes space exploration. By writing your Member of Congress and urging them to fund NASA at the level it deserves, you play a critical role in this. Senators and Representatives often take positions based on how it will affect their chances at reelection, and the position on a budget that cripples NASA should be no different. You are their constituent – and you vote.
Why We Fight
Penny4NASA is a nonprofit, grassroots organization seeking to promote the economic, scientific, and cultural value of an appropriately funded national space program. While the organization is political in nature, Penny4NASA does not seek to endorse any particular parties or candidates. Instead, Penny4NASA seeks to increase NASA’s budget from less than half a penny on a tax dollar to one percent and maintains that doing so will provide America with a stronger economy and new careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. In addition, Penny4NASA supports the policy priorities established in 2010’s National Space Policy which supports increased investment in space education and workforce development, fosters commercial space development, and encourages greater partnership between public and private space organizations.
America’s investment in the national space program during the 1950s an 1960s ushered in an era of technological an economic advancement beyond anything the world had ever seen. While NASA itself did not generate every landmark invention of the 20th century, many innovators were inspired by the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions. And many of their advancements – cellular phones, MRIs, and fuel cells to name a few – could not have been possible had it not been for NASA research and development.
Currently, the national space program has entered a critical stage where falling public budgets and a lack of strategic leadership are taking their toll on NASA’s programs in spaceflight and aeronautics. As commercial spaceflight firms like SpaceX take on NASA’s historical role in accessing low earth orbit, full and consistent funding of our national space program is key to realizing NASA’s mission to advance the far frontiers of spaceflight and aeronautics as established in the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act.
What’s at Stake?
Among the many things that are at stake given the decreasing of NASA’s funding are:
The continued advancement of scientific knowledge – answering the ultimate questions.
- We were the first to put a man on the moon, and the only manned space faring country to no longer have the capability to send our own astronauts into space.
- We have had plan after plan over the last 40 years to bring us back to the Moon, to Mars and beyond. All of which have seen their budgets slashed, and their programs eventually dismantled.
- The White House’s FY 2013 budget requested a 38.5% budget cut to NASA’s planetary exploration budget. This means that NASA was forced to halt their plans to partner with the ESA on the ExoMars mission, included possible further cutbacks in Mars missions, and others.
- NASA’s FY2013 budget is slated at $17.77 Billion, which represents 0.48% of the total US federal budget allocations. This is the 3rd lowest funding level by percentage, higher only then the budgets of 1958 and 1959, NASA’s founding years.
- In terms of constant 2007 dollars, NASA’s FY2013 budget is slated at $16.014 Billion, which is the 23rd lowest budget by constant dollar value. Ironically, 23rd is also the United States position in worldwide Science test scores.
- The Curiosity Rover (Mars Science Laboratory) was a huge 10 year undertaking that culminated in a rover with all the scientific equipment of a small laboratory, miniaturized and now sitting on Mars ready to unveil the secrets hidden within sedimentary deposits on Mount Sharp in Gale Crater, find the answers to whether Mars has the conditions and makeup conducive for life as we know it.
- Ask any expert and the next step in Mars exploration is a sample return mission, something that will not happen unless NASA receives the proper funding allocation.
Continued economic prosperity and competitiveness of the United States
- A huge amount of the funding invested in NASA comes right back into the economy both through revenues created by new technologies made possible through NASA science and research, and also through contractors of all sizes which NASA depends on. That’s an extremely valuable aspect of NASA’s relationship with our national economy, and this economic benefit is enough to warrant 1% of the US annual budget.
- NASA research and development consistently comes back into the economy as new technologies. These are called NASA Spinoffs, which can be found here. Here is a short list of some of our favorites.
- Laser Angioplasty – A system that vaporizes blockages in coronary arteries without damaging arterial walls
- Body Imaging – The Apollo era spawned what has now become some of the most widely used medical diagnostic tools, including the CT, CATscan and MRI
- Global Positioning System (GPS) – NASA was the first in the US to develop the technology to put a satellite into orbit, to develop the communications abilities and subsequent discoveries that lead straight to the capabilities of GPS.