Budgets and Policy: March 2006

AbSciCon Report

U.S. Astrobiologists Convene Biannual Conference Amid Devastating NASA Budget Threats, SETI Institute

"Although astrobiology is clearly one of the most exciting and productive programs in the space science portfolio, the proposed FY 2007 NASA budget inexplicably aims to disembowel astrobiology research funding with a 50% cut. An astrobiology community Town Hall meeting will be held on March 28, 2006 from 1-2 p.m., at the Ronald Reagan Building, Amphitheater. This meeting is designed to be a forum for community members to comment on the proposed cuts and the implications to the field."

NASA Astrobiology PI's Speak Out

Astrobiology Serves NASA and The National Interest - Statement Prepared by Principal Investigators of the NASA Astrobiology Institute

"Astrobiology is the interdisciplinary study of the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life on Earth and in the universe. It melds the understanding of life on Earth, the nature of our solar system and its potential to support life, and the search for habitable environments and life on planets around other stars. The President's budget calls for cuts to the NASA astrobiology program that would abdicate U.S. leadership and threaten our capabilities in this field."

NASA Astrobiology in Peril - Update and Action Suggestions, SETI Institute

"Dear Members of the Astrobiology Community: We are writing to you again to offer some thoughts and suggestions in advance of the upcoming AbSciCon meeting in Washington DC. Please know that everyone, including the authors here, believes that it is important to reverse the decision to severely cut NASA's R&A budget by 15%. It is also imperative that a focused effort be maintained to undo the inexplicable 50% cut to Astrobiology research."

Astrobiology Program Cutback Status

NASA Astrobiology Program Status, NASA HQ

"Even at the requested FY07 funding level we will be able to support a vigorous program of astrobiology research and some technology development. Obviously, however, it will be about half the size of the current program. Getting from here to there will be challenging and painful. I will seek guidance from the astrobiology community about how to approach this adjustment in the long term, but I have had to make some policy decisions regarding near term action."

NASA HQ Sends Out The Bad News

Funding Notification Sent out by NASA Headquarters to Astrobiology Investigators, NASA HQ

"By now you will probably have received notification that there will not be an Exobiology solicitation in ROSES-06. Due to cuts in the FY06 Astrobiology Program budget, and the proposed cuts in the FY07 budget, the four funding lines in the Program (Exo, NAI, ASTID, and ASTEP) are under extreme pressure."

Details of FY 2006 Cuts

ROSES-06 Amendment 5: Adjustments in ROSES-2006 to align with the NASA budget, NASA HQ

"Specifically the proposed FY07 budget includes a 15% reduction for R&A in most disciplines and a 50% reduction in astrobiology. These budgets are sufficiently different from the planning budgets that were used to develop ROSES-2006 that adjustments are required in several ROSES-2006 program elements to be consistent with NASA's FY06 operating budget and the President's requested NASA FY07 budget."

Why Astrobiology Is Important

Why the USA and NASA need astrobiology, Neville J. Woolf

"Last year the NASA Astrobiology Institute held an internal meeting to explore the range of research of Institute members. There were no specialist sessions. And the audience stayed for all the talks, astronomy, geology, biology and education. The success was jointly an activity of speakers who were learning to express their work without jargon, and an audience that was receptive to the range of topics. This is an ongoing learning experience. Astrobiology does not yet have all the educational answers, but it is headed in a direction that the United States needs, not only at the graduate level, but for undergraduates and high school students too."

Wes Huntress on Astrobiology Cuts

Statement by Wesley T. Huntress, Jr - House Science Committee Hearing on NASA FY 2007 Science Budget

"While the 2003 Solar System Decadal Report recommends that R&A be increased over this decade at a rate above inflation, the FY07 budget would reduce funding for R&A by 15% across the board. For reasons hard to fathom, one particular program, astrobiology, is targeted for a 50-percent reduction. Astrobiology was specifically named by the Decadal report as an important new component in the R&A program and is recognized even outside NASA as the agency's newest and most innovative research program bringing biologists, geologists and space scientists together to understand the earliest life on Earth and how we might search for life elsewhere beyond our own planet."