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Sequester Impedes NASA’s Terrestrial Movement, Too

We knew the sequester would cut NASA deep -- and we feel it more keenly, we who love science and all things space -- but we didn't know where precisely the blade would fall. We figured travel into space, such as through the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), might be curtailed, but who knew it would limit NASA's travel on Earth, too? That's what's going down. Due to the March 1 sequestration, NASA has issued serious restrictions on the travel of its employees and their participation in major conferences. Essentially, the agency is grounded, but still allowed to play in its room.

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The Four Worst Ways the Sequester Will Hit Science Funding

When the so-called sequester -- billions upon billions of dollars of cuts to domestic programs, military funding, social services and pretty much any other government program you care to name -- was agreed on in 2011 after a spectacularly unproductive round of budget talks, it was meant to be a gun to the head of the American economy. The idea of making blind, thoughtless cuts to popular programs was thought to be so detrimental to the nation's economy and welfare that the thought of going through it would force Democrats and and Republicans to come together and finally pound out a budget deal that everyone can live with. With the deadline looming and no agreement in sight, though, it seems that we've proven no idea is too stupid for the U.S. government. In all likelihood, the sequester will kick in at the end of this week, making cuts in the budgets of agencies like NASA, the NIH, and plenty more American science and technology agencies. How bad is it going to be? Well, here are just a few ways the sequester will kick the teeth right out of science funding.

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New NASA Budget Slashes Joint Mars Missions, Ups Manned Mission Budget

The President's draft of NASA's budget was released this morning, with cuts to some of the administration's deep space exploration plans to Mars and the outer planets. The cuts come as Washington faces one of the most economically difficult times in recent memory, which have hit NASA particularly hard leaving the agency with the smallest budget in four years. Thankfully, it's not all bad news.

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NASA Takes Huge Hit In Proposed Congressional Budget

In what feels like a completely endless debate about how the government should support its science agencies during economic hardship, it seems as though NASA is set to be the sacrificial lamb of budget balancing with almost $2 billion in cuts. Congress has just released its Appropriations bill that gives their views on how much federal money NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) should be given. Massive cuts are called for across the board, but no agency is set to lose as much as NASA.

To determine the federal budget, the President comes up with a budget request that the House of Representatives and the Senate then consider and come up with their own independent counter offers. The House and Senate must agree on budget appropriations before the budget becomes final. In his request, President Obama was relatively kind to NASA but the House apparently doesn't see the same value in the agency. The House's budget includes a total cut of $1.64 billion from last year which is almost $2 billion short of the President's request.

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Think You’re Smart? Balance the National Budget

If you like math puzzles, here's one for you: The New York Times has put together an interactive puzzle wherein you can attempt to balance the national budget and keep the deficit from ballooning even further.

Today, you’re in charge of the nation’s finances. Some of your options have more short-term savings and some have more long-term savings. When you have closed the budget gaps for both 2015 and 2030, you are done. Make your own plan, then share it online.
If you want to play on Expert mode, consider that 1) As a politician, a lot of people and lobbies would be very, very angry if you tried to implement many of these changes (just try implementing a national sales tax) and 2) this is just the budget shortfall over the next five to twenty years; the total national debt is $13.723 trillion dollars. >>>You fix the budget. (NYT via FlowingData)

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