WASHINGTON (AFP) — President George W. Bush Monday set out a modest 2.9 percent rise in funding for the US space agency, just as NASA is racing to finish the International Space Station in 2010.
The funds were contained in Bush's proposed 3.1-trillion-dollar budget for the fiscal year 2009, and earmarked some 17.61 billion dollars for NASA projects in the coming year.
That compares to the agency's estimated 17.11 billion dollars budget for the year to September 2008, and would in fact represent a cut in funds with inflation running at 4.1 percent.
The Bush administration set out 105 million dollars for a robot mission to the Moon, as well as 1.3 billion for continued exploration of Mars and other planets in the solar system.
NASA has asked for 2.1 billion dollars in 2009 to meet the costs of running the International Space Station, and meet its international commitments.
A further three billion dollars is earmarked for the construction of the ISS, and to cover the costs of the maintenance and launch of three shuttle missions to complete the space station by October 1, 2010.
NASA has also asked Congress to approve a billion dollars for the Orion Crew Exploration project, aimed at putting Americans back on the Moon in 2020 to set up a permanent lunar outpost, in order to eventually man missions to Mars.
A billion dollars has also been set aside in 2009 to launch the Orion crew exploration vehicle into orbit on the Ares I crew launch vehicle.
But other parts of the budget appear to be undergoing cuts, with the White House proposing an envelope of 4.41 billion dollars for research and scientific missions in 2009 compared with 5.5 billion in 2008.
The budget for space exploration has also been cut from 3.8 billion in the current fiscal year to 3.5 billion.
Funding for space operations is also down from 6.73 billion in 2008, to 5.77 billion in 2009.
NASA however signalled that some funds were being regrouped differently in 2009, resulting in an envelope of 3.3 billion dollars compared to just an estimated 376 million in 2008.
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