Ted Cruz Distorts NASA’s Mission, Budget

The following post first appeared on FactCheck.org.

During his critique of NASA’s spending on earth and atmospheric sciences at a recent committee hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz made some misleading claims regarding the agency’s budgets and the science that it conducts.

  • Cruz said there has been a “disproportionate increase” since 2009 in funding of earth sciences. There has been an increase — and it is larger than some other NASA areas — but spending on earth sciences is lower now as a percentage of NASA’s budget than it was in fiscal 2000. And the increase reflects an effort to restore funding that had been cut.
  • Cruz also suggested that the “core mission” of NASA does not include earth sciences. In fact, studying the Earth and atmosphere has been central to NASA’s mission since its creation in 1958.
  • In criticizing NASA’s spending on earth sciences, Cruz also said the agency needs to “get back to the hard sciences” — meaning space exploration and not earth and atmospheric research. The term “hard sciences” refers to fields including physics and chemistry, which are central to the research being done as part of NASA’s earth science programs.

Budget Priorities

Cruz, a potential 2016 presidential candidate who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, held a March 12 hearing on the fiscal year 2016 budget request for NASA. During the hearing, he said that the agency spends too much money and effort on earth sciences.

Cruz, March 12: As we begin the process of putting together a roadmap for the future of NASA, there is one vital question that this committee should examine: Should NASA focus primarily inwards, or outwards beyond lower Earth orbit. Since the end of the last administration we have seen a disproportionate increase in the amount of federal funds that have —> Read More