The House Appropriations Committee, which dictates how the government spends money, has released a draft of the commerce, justice and science appropriations bill cutting NASA's FY 2012 budget by $1.6 billion.
The proposed budget includes overall cuts from FY 2011 in NASA science ($431m cut), exploration ($152m cut) and operations ($1.4b cut).
The committee specifies how the money will be spent. Of the $3.6b exploration budget, $1.9b is to be spent on the heavy lift launch vehicle, "which shall have a lift capability not less than 130 tons and which shall have an upper stage and other core elements developed simultaneously." An additional $1.1b is slated to the multipurpose crew vehicle (MPCV) developed from the cancelled Orion capsule.
The draft cuts the James Webb Space Telescope, the troubled successor to the Hubble Space Telescope due to launch in 2018. The telescope is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, but the cut generated an immediate backlash from supporters.
The draft appropriations bill contains language forbidding NASA from spending money to cooperate with China, identical to that of the law that funds NASA in FY 2011.
The draft bill will be sent to the subcommittee on 7 July, then to the appropriations committee, and thence to the full House of Representatives for approval; lawmakers can modify the bill during each stage.