President Barack Obama’s budget includes $105 million to start an ambitious joint human-and-robot space mission that may eventually cost about $2.6 billion. The mission would have a robotic spaceship lasso a small asteroid, haul it to near the Moon and then spacewalking astronauts would explore the space rock.
The idea is to test technologies and methods to protect Earth from being hit by dangerous asteroids and prepare astronauts for a future mission to Mars. Some of the initial money would be used to better scan the solar system for asteroids.
NASA’s overall budget under the Obama proposal is $17.7 billion, a 0.1 percent decrease from the previous year, though after sequestration, NASA’s 2013 spending has dropped to about $16.6 billion.
The proposal increases by almost $300 million money to help private companies develop commercial spaceships to carry astronauts to the International Space Station instead of the Russian Soyuz rocket and the now-retired space shuttle fleet. Republicans in Congress have at times balked at increases in this program.
It also generally continues current spending levels for NASA’s biggest ticket items, $5 billion a year for science, $3 billion a year for the International Space Station, construction of a new heavy-lift rocket and a capsule to hold astronauts, and what will eventually be an $8 billion replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope.
NASA’s education spending would drop by $45 million — nearly one-third of the agency’s education budget — because science education would be consolidated and augmented at other agencies, especially the Department of Education.