Scientists denounced the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives’ NASA budget proposal that would take money away from Earth studies, including those of climate change, and funnel it toward space exploration, a move critics say could hinder the space agency’s ability to better understand global-warming trends. Passed by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee Thursday, the bill would cut funding of Earth science by more than $300 million while increasing spending on space-flight programs by about $200 million, according to the Hill.
Proponents of NASA’s Earth-studies programs said the space agency has contributed a great deal to scientists’ understanding of global weather patterns and trends, including the effects of climate change on the environment. Charles Bolden, a former astronaut who is the administrator of NASA, said the House bill “threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events.”
Other critics described the spending cuts as “reckless.” Marshall Shepherd, a former scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published Friday that the budget would “take NASA’s earth-science program from the ‘enhanced’ smartphone era back to the first-generation ‘flip’ phones, or maybe the rotary phone.”
The House Science Committee approved the bill by a 19-15 vote. Lawmakers who voted in favor of the spending cuts defended the measure. They said the budget would “restore balance” to the space agency and allow NASA to remain a leader in space exploration.
“For more than 50 years, the U.S. has led the world in space exploration,” committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said in a statement. “We must restore balance to NASA’s budget if we want to ensure the U.S. continues to lead in space for the next 50 years. ... The Obama administration has consistently cut funding for these human space-exploration programs, while increasing funding for the Earth Science Division by more than 63 percent.”