NASA Budget Left Behind

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Although most federal research programs are in line for substantial budget hikes in President Clinton's R&D spending plan, released yesterday, NASA is a relative loser. But NASA Administrator Dan Goldin is putting on a brave face: The space agency's proposed $173 million cut, to $13.5 billion, will not hurt its programs, he says. "For what we have on our plate today, we have adequate resources."

Goldin notes that space science will increase 4%, to $2 billion, providing money to begin planning a mission to Jupiter's moon Europa and a sample return mission to Mars. Life and microgravity sciences also would get a boost--a $28 million increase to $242 million.

But the budgetary pressures to keep the space station effort on track are expected to be intense. Goldin says NASA wants to take $50 million from space science and $50 million from earth science in 1998 to help cover station cost overruns, although he pledges "we will still do everything" planned for those disciplines. Congress, however, must approve any such funding transfers. For 1999, NASA officials say the overruns could get worse, although Goldin says he's optimistic that the program is under control.