The U.S. Government under President Obama plans to cut NASA’s 2013 budget slightly to $17.7 billion. The budget request, if passed by Congress, has winners and losers. Unmanned exploration of the planet Mars would have its budget cut from $587 million to $361 million. This would effectively preclude NASA from funding the launches of the joint ESA/NASA ExoMars mission.

While science has been slightly cut from just over $5 billion to $4.9 billion, the real damage to that programme is the continuing financial drain caused by the James Webb Space Telescope whose cost has now ballooned to $8.5 billion. This will mean that several other science missions have now been delayed or cut. Having previously been paired back, commercial manned exploration is to receive a boost with the commercial crew programme rising from $406 million to $830 million. Likewise the Space Launch System and Orion exploration capsule will be given $3 billion towards their development.