FIGURE 1.1 The budgetary history of the four elements constituting NASA’s Astrobiology program. The program is currently operating on an annual budget of approximately $4 million more that the figure indicated for fiscal year 2007. Courtesy of John D. Rummel, NASA Science Mission Directorate.

largely an astrobiology vision with regard to the science emphasis [footnote omitted]. In developing the future of the program, the missions actually feed forward from the basic science. Astrobiology is just beginning the type of synthesis and integration that will allow it to provide science input for future mission development. Without it, the science and the scientific personnel will not be in place to support the missions when they do fly.”42

Despite favorable reviews by the NRC and almost a decade’s worth of steady budget increases (Figure 1.1), the astrobiology community was shocked to learn that NASA’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2007 included a 50 percent cut for the Astrobiology program. The reason why the program was singled-out for a cut of 50 percent when other programs were only cut by 15 percent has never been explained satisfactorily.

Some slight budgetary relief came in 2007 when approximately $4 million was added back to the program from SMD discretionary funds and a reallocation of resources within SMD’s Planetary Science Division. Nevertheless, the current expectation is that NASA’s Astrobiology budget will remain at approximately the FY2007-level with annual corrections for inflation. Thus, the Astrobiology program enters its second decade with a major disconnect between the resources allocated to its execution and the important role ascribed to the program in NASA and NRC strategic plans.

NOTES

  

1. See, for example, S.J. Dick and J.E. Strick, The Living Universe: NASA and the Development of Astrobiology, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 2004, pp. 205-213.

  

2. L.J. Mix et al. (eds.), “The Astrobiology Primer: An Outline of General Knowledge—Version 1, 2006,”. Astrobiology 6: 735-813, 2006. Available at http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1089/ast.2006.6.735.

  

3. See, for example, http://www.nai.arc.nasa.gov/about/about_nai.cfm#overview.

  

4. L.J. Lafleur, “Astrobiology,” Astronomical Society of the Pacific Leaflets 3: 333-340, 1941.

  

5. See, for example, H. Sturghold, The Green and Red Planet, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1953; O. Struve, “Life on Other Worlds,” Sky and Telescope 14: 137-146, 1955; or A.G. Wilson, “Problems Common to the Fields of Astronomy and Biology: A Symposium—Introduction,” Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 70: 41-43, 1958.



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