NASA has kept its budget request for 1998 down to $13.5 billion as it continues to seek lower, but more stable, funding over the next five years.

The space agency, which has agreed this approach with the White House, has asked for a $13.7 billion budget this year and is due to work down to $13.2 billion by the year 2000.

These figures are about $2-3 billion less than NASA has requested in the past few years, but Administrator Daniel Goldin claims that his agency needs to be realistic about its goals in relation to wider Government spending needs. He says that NASA must seek longer-term budget stability, rather than fight destructive annual battles.

The argument resulted in a deal with US President Bill Clinton in 1992-3, designed to bring this stability, at least until 2002. The deal was driven by NASA's need to support the establishment of the International Space Station (ISS) (Flight International, 15-21 November, 1995).

Highlights of Goldin's request are proposals to return samples of Mars to the Earth with a Mars Surveyor launch in 2005 and a possible mission to Pluto, the last planet to be explored using a spacecraft, which will be supported by accelerated advanced-technology demonstration missions.

Goldin has requested 39% and 56% increases for the Discovery and New Millennium programmes respectively, to $106.5 million and $75.7 million. These will be supported by $151.2 million for advanced space-technology initiatives.

Some $2.1 billion is envisaged for the ISS, out of a $5.32 billion request for human spaceflight programmes. The station will be inaugurated in November and December, with the first components launched on a Russian Proton and the US Space Shuttle Endeavour.

As part of the Goldin-Clinton agreement, the ISS is constrained to a regular annual budget of $2.1 billion, with a total budget cap of $17.4 billion at completion of assembly in June 2002.

The Space Shuttle programme is allocated $2.97 billion, representing a budget decrease of 24% in four years, says Goldin. The privatisation of Shuttle operations under the United Space Alliance is now into its fourth month and is "-going well", he says.

Source: Flight International