“It’s dismaying that NASA officials would be directed to use this crisis to score domestic political points on behalf of the White House.” Marco Cáceres, senior analyst and director of space studies at Teal Group, is also perturbed. “It sounds like they are trying to use the crisis [in Crimea] as a way to increase NASA’s funding,” he says, “but it’s a disingenuous way of making the case, especially since there are a lot of other good reasons to increase NASA’s budget.” Currently, the agency’s budget is just under $18 billion — a level of funding that the agency has maintained more or less for the last six years. “NASA is extremely underfunded as it is,” Cáceres says. “Any recent increases have been barely enough to keep up with inflation.”
Cáceres says he is more concerned with NASA’s prediction that the agency will be able to launch from US soil as early as 2017. Even with a marked increase in NASA funding, he says, the likelihood of a US-based launch is minuscule because NASA doesn’t currently have access to a viable means of transportation to the ISS. “There really isn’t any great option in terms of a vehicle,” he says. “Even if you were to increase [NASA's] budget by 10 or 20 percent — maybe even 50 — you still wouldn’t have a good way of getting up there.” Cáceres says that although NASA is developing a heavy-lift rocket system called the Space Launch System, it won’t be ready for a crewed spaceflight before 2021.