John Raoux/AP
Kennedy Space Center in Cape
Canaveral, Fla.

Budgeting Is Harder for NASA Than Rocket Science, Indicates GAO

March 09, 2009 09:00 AM
by Haley A. Lovett
In the most recent blow to the NASA space program, the Government Accountability Office found that most of its projects are over budget and behind schedule.

Logistical Problems for NASA

In a report released on March 5, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that NASA projects ran an average of 11 months behind schedule and 13 percent over budget. The report also found that NASA often needed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a project before being able to accurately estimate the final cost. Nine of those over-budget projects account for almost $1.1 billion dollars of excess spending, according to The Associated Press.

What mission was the worst offender? According to it is NASA’s Glory Satellite. Designed to test aerosol and carbon in the atmosphere, the Glory is now estimated to cost at least 50 percent more than originally thought. It has been delayed because of the recent crash of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory.

For some projects, NASA was unable to even give the GAO figures, and so the agency had to make guesses as to the potential costs.

NASA is set to receive $1 billion from the new stimulus package, which includes funds for exploration. NASA is looking for more money to fund programs between the 2010 retirement of the space shuttle and the 2015 launch of Orion.

Related Topic: NASA’s recent troubles

In late February, three minutes after launching the $278 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory, NASA scientists and engineers watched in shock as it plunged into the Pacific Ocean near Antarctica. The OCO was meant to help scientists understand how greenhouse gases affect climate change, and why the ocean absorbs much of the gases emitted into the atmosphere.

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