First word on NASA Budget Cuts

Pamela L. Gay, Ph.D.
8 min readMar 13, 2024

I am not a morning person. I will often work late into the night with collaborators as we enjoy those hours after children, spouses, and other distractors have all settled into sleep. This means that when my 8am alarm went off, 6 hours after I’d headed to bed, I cursed. But I knew there was Bennu science being presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), and I was going to be there (via Zoom) to hear that science.

But I have to admit, I’ve been largely distracted away from all that sciencey goodness by news that has me rage-eating yogurt (this life at 50, folks). It turns out a bunch of missions I love have been given an expiration date.

Over the weekend, Congress voted into place the FY2024 budgets for multiple agencies, including NASA. Since October 1 — when the fiscal year started — both NASA and NSF have been working on continuing resolutions and spending very conservatively. Now that we have a budget… the conservative spending isn’t going to stop. The agency is being asked for an overall 2% cut. In combination with inflation rates over 3%, we are looking at a fairly significant cut to the effective US budget for space science.

Audience to budget roll out on March 10, 2024. Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Exactly what this will mean has been coming out in bits and pieces. The bottom line is this: the decadal surveys are being used as the guiding documents for setting portfolios, NASA wants a balanced portfolio of funded programs, there will be cuts, and if you remember Sequestration in 2013…. Yeah, we’re back to that kind of belt-tightening.

On Monday, in the face of agency-wide budget cuts, I sat through a NASA Briefing presented at the LPSC in which they discussed how NASA is thoughtfully working to decide what programs will be cut and what the Mars Sample Return mission budget will be set to. It turns out this may have been a bit disingenuous. While the planetary community in attendance was being told to hold tight, messages were starting to make their way out to mission teams about cuts. I’m still working to track down details, but from what I’ve found out so far, Chandra, Juno, and MAVEN teams have all been told it’s time to wind up their missions, with deadlines to shut down coming circa 2026 give or take a budget year. At the same time, Hubble will be getting 5% budget cuts, it somehow appears JWST will just keep on being over budget (per

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Pamela L. Gay, Ph.D.

Astronomer, technologist, & creative focused on using new media to engage people in learning and doing science. Opinions & typos my own.