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Obama budget has more money for space exploration

US President Barack Obama's budget plan for fiscal year 2010 gives more money to NASA and spends more on space overall, officials said yesterday.

It gives the US space agency US$18.7 billion, a rise of US$2.4 billion over 2008 when money from the economic stimulus package is included, and stresses research into climate change and space exploration.

Like his predecessor George W. Bush, Obama wants to return people to the moon and send robots further into space. He will also, as planned, retire the space shuttle in 2010, adding perhaps one extra flight between now and then if possible to help complete the International Space Station.

Just this week a NASA satellite that was supposed to monitor carbon dioxide emissions crashed into the Pacific Ocean when it failed to separate from its rocket, forcing the space agency to re-evaluate its plans to measure the greenhouse gas from space.

"NASA will develop new space-based research sensors in support of the administration's goal to deploy a global climate research and monitoring system," the budget reads.

Acting NASA Administrator Christopher Scolese called the proposal "fiscally responsible."

The budget also includes US$1.3 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to fund the development and acquisition of weather satellites and climate sensors, said the Aerospace Industries Association.

The group, which represents leading US aerospace companies, said the budget provided a sound foundation for national defense and space exploration.

"In this remarkably difficult economic atmosphere, we are encouraged to see a budget proposal that recognizes the importance of our national security and invests in space and aviation priorities," said the group's president, Marion Blakey.

Others were disappointed.

"The budget proposal for NASA represents a disappointingly small step in the right direction," Space Foundation Chief Executive Officer Elliot Pulham said in a statement.

"It is far from what is needed if the US is to stimulate the economy, create more high-tech jobs and hold on to its eroding leadership position in space."


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