Space Politics has a nice wrap up of the political swirl around how the change in administration may impact NASA. In American politics (and perhaps everywhere) talk is cheap. Administrations frequently make bold statements of support for many programs, and then supporters are disappointed when the lofty statements aren't supported with adequate funds in the proposed budgets. The Space Politics summary concisely states when Obama's administration may have a chance to make their priorities clear as they impact NASA: "According to the Hunsville Times, the new administration’s space priorities won’t be clear until the FY2011 budget submission in early 2010, or over a year after taking office. Scott Pace, head of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington Univ. and a former NASA official, said he expected a “flat” budget in 2010. One complicating factor not mentioned in the article, though, is that NASA doesn’t yet have a final FY2009 appropriation: the agency, like much of the federal government, is operating under a continuing resolution through early March. If the FY09 budget is that late, that would seem to imply there’s flexibility to make changes for FY2010 rather than wait until 2011, if the administration so desires (and Congress is willing to go along.)"
If you are interested in the politics that eventually lead to dollars to fund missions (or not), I highly recommend Space Politics.
Many a fine space discussion board has gone into the endless swirl of what the balance should be between manned and unmanned missions at NASA. That is a topic I won't touch in this blog. I have opinions, but so do each of the readers and I have no special insight to add to your opinion making. I will simply say that the political process appears to start with how much of the Federal budget pie should be devoted to space. That amount is then divided between manned and unmanned exploration. If one portion increases, the other decreases. I would be unhappy with a program that eliminated either. Where the line should be drawn, I leave up to each of you. (When the next budget is proposed (usually the end of January or early February each year), I will summarize it in this blog.)