US President Barack Obama has formally made his Fiscal Year 2014 budget request for NASA. At $17.7 billion investment the budget is largely unchanged in cash terms from 2012 levels and is $1 billion higher than the 2013 budget, but taking inflation into account, it still still represents a decline. The plan, which assumes that the sequestration limits will no longer be in effect, commits to continuing with the the Orion space capsule and its SLS heavy lift booster rocket programmes, and contributing towards the final development of the James Webb Space Telescope, leading to its planned launch in 2018.
One surprise in the budget request was confirmation that NASA is looking seriously at “dragging” an asteroid into near Earth space. Funding worth $105 million has been allocated to to this “asteroid retrieval” mission along with the the solar electic and guidance technlogies which would be needed to allow such a mission to be undertaken. If such a mission is successful, the idea is that NASA astronauts would then be able to explore this asteroid and even that mining operations coud be set up.