The chairman of the U.S. House science committee said Thursday that NASA is headed for "a train wreck" if the space agency isn't better funded to finish building the international space station and develop the next-generation spacecraft.
The White House has cut NASA's five-year budget plan by almost $2.26 billion in the three years since President Bush announced the "Vision for Space Exploration" plan to develop new spacecraft to go back to the moon and then to Mars, said U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn. Gordon, chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology, spoke at a hearing in Washington on NASA's 2008 budget request.
"I think it's clear that we have a budgetary situation that bears little resemblance to the rosy projections offered by the administration ... a vision that is now increasingly blurred," Gordon told NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.
"I'm afraid that NASA is headed for a train wreck if things don't change," Gordon said.
Lawmakers on the House committee also said the five-year plan in the 2008 budget proposal shortchanges the space station by $924 million and doesn't fund an upgrade in the Deep Space communications network.
In a separate hearing on the other side of the Capitol, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, pledged to try increasing NASA's budget by $1 billion. Mikulski also proposed holding a "space summit" between members of Congress and the White House to set a bipartisan agenda on space.
NASA's proposed budget for 2008 is $17.3 billion, a 3.1 percent increase over what the White House requested for 2007. However, since Congress didn't pass a budget for NASA last year, the 2007 funding level was kept the same as 2006's $16.6 billion, leaving the space agency with an expected $545 million shortfall.
"It does reflect a strong commitment by the administration to NASA," Griffin said of the budget. "It does not purchase all of the things that all of us would like to purchase. But that is a fact of life."