O’Keefe Departs

One of O’Keefe’s last acts as NASA Administrator in early February was to an­nounce Bush’s proposed budget for NASA for FY 2006. It was $16.5 billon. This was a raise of $400 million from the congressional appropriation. Ominously, it was only half the amount Bush had promised when he made the Moon-Mars

decision. The president’s desire to trim the budget deficit and put more money into the war on terrorism (especially in Iraq) and defense generally trumped virtually all other federal programs. In addition, Clay Johnson, the deputy direc­tor of OMB, was personally close to Bush and a harsh critic of the Moon-Mars vision. He persuaded Bush not to put his political capital behind space in his second term.54 It was more O’Keefe’s influence than Bush’s support which al­lowed NASA to fare better than most domestic agencies in the budget process. Speaking of the raise NASA got, O’Keefe commented, “It’s rather remarkable under the circumstance.”55

O’Keefe had continued to prioritize sharply. He put the money he had be­hind the new mission, and this policy worked to the advantage of the robotic Mars program. Overall, the NASA science budget was slightly down from the previous presidential budget, from $5.5 billion to $5.4 billion. The lunar sci­ence program, which had been suffering benign neglect for a long time, tripled in size. Mars projects also gained, jumping from $681 million to $723 million. O’Keefe was creating a budget wedge intended to raise the robotic Mars pro­gram to the $1 billion level in 2010.56

But what was good for Moon-Mars science was bad for every other field. The outer planets and Earth observation satellites were suffering, and Hubble on the way out altogether. If NAS said that robots could not fix Hubble, then Hubble would not be fixed, at least under the O’Keefe policy.57

Prioritizing meant winners and losers. There was little question that non – Mars scientists envied the money going to Mars, and not just money—glory! The successes of Spirit and Opportunity on Mars were high profile, giving the scientists associated with the rovers, especially Steve Squyres, what a Science magazine editorial called “the astronomical equivalent of rock star status.”58