In a vote on party lines, Republicans in the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology approved a budget authorization for NASA that would see funding for the Orion and the Space Launch System continue but would slash the agency's budget for its Earth science division.

This vote followed an earlier decision by the committee to cut the NSF's geoscience budget and comes after prominent attacks on NASA's Earth sciences work during a Senate hearing, all of which suggests a concerted effort against the researchers who, among other things, are telling us that climate change is a reality.

This budget approval will cover the 2016 and 2017 budget, and it contains two scenarios based upon the degree to which the overall budget is constrained.  Analysis of the bill shows that it would keep spending in line with the Obama administration's request but would shift money from basic sciences to human exploration.  The Orion capsule and Space Launch System rocket would both receive a boost of millions of dollars while the planetary sciences would also see a boost of almost $150 million.

However, this love of other planets doesn't seem to include the one we currently inhabit.  The added spending on these divisions is offset by drastic cuts in the Earth sciences, down from $1.947 billion under Obama's proposal to $1.45 billion under the committees budget.  If budget restraints kick in, this figure would drop even further down to $1.2 billion, or a cut of almost 40 percent while the development of space technology would only take a hit of about $125 million.

While the committee's press release claims the bill received widespread support, it is also facing its share of criticism.  The Planetary Society called the bill "flawed" on their website stating, "Obviously, the cuts to Earth Science make this a hard bill to support, therefore The Planetary Society cannot support the full bill as written at this early stage."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was also not pleased. In a statement released yesterday, he said, "The NASA authorization bill making its way through the House of Representatives guts our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events." He also criticized the cuts to space technology development.

It is difficult to deny the impression that these budget cuts are part of effort to ensure that less is done in the country to address climate change.  In the Senate, testimony by Bolden was used by senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) as an opportunity to claim that Earth sciences aren't "hard science," and NASA's attention would be better focused in other places.