Hank Investigates: NASA's Funding
The massive books of the president’s budget now in the hands of congress, what it offers NASA is only a small increase in funding. That leaves the space agency's $15 billion budget virtually flat for the past ten decade.
John Logsdon, Space Policy Expert
"The agency I think for ten years, maybe more, has been asked to do more than it has been given the budget to do."
For years, we found, government agencies have warned budget cuts can erode the shuttles critical safety systems. Now, NASA's own former inspector general says the shuttle workforce was cut by one third and that could lead to tragic mistakes.
Roberta Gross, Fmr. NASA Inspector General
"When the budget gets flattened, your workforce gets decreased… Stress levels start going up quite a bit."
Another result, an aging shuttle fleet, grounded last July after finding cracks in the hydrogen flow liners, part of the fuel lines of all four shuttles. These actual Shuttle Columbia status reports from the Kennedy Space Center show that cracks in Columbia’s liners delayed its launch. The pre-launch reports also show work on Columbia’s coolant system heat shield, even a scratch on a piece of equipment.
John Glenn, Fmr. Senator/Astronaut
"No one lets a flight go up if they think there’s anything wrong at all."
But the fine print of the new budget labels the shuttle program "moderately effective" and says investments to improve the shuttle suffer from inadequate planning and poor cost management.
Now, as the search for answers continues, the newly appointed outside investigator says his teams will not just be looking at metal, but at money.
Ret. Adm. Harold Gehman, Investigator
"We're looking at organization, the budget and safety programs and oversight. All of that, we're going to look at everything."
The president’s budget was of course prepared before Saturday and there is talk in Washington now about how NASA's finances might be adjusted... But, officials insist, it’s just too soon to predict what spending changes, if any, may be in the works.