Federal funding for basic research by astronomers in the United States comes primarily from two sources: (1) NASA's Office of Space Science, and (2) the National Science Foundation. Funding for "astronomy" more generally is difficult to quantify, since it comes from so many sources. But the following can give you a sense of what basic astronomical research costs taxpayers:

  • In 2000, the total federal budget amounted to $1.88 trillion

    • Revenue from personal income taxes amounted to $900 billion (48% of budget)

    • The "non-defense discretionary" portion of the budget amounted to $330 billion (36% of taxes)

  • The NASA Office of Space Science budget was $2.20 billion (0.67% of NDD)

    • The OSS allocation for Supporting Research & Technology was $1.15 billion (52% of OSS)

    • The SRT portion devoted to Research Programs was $472 million (21% of OSS)

  • The National Science Foundation budget was $3.95 billion (1.2% of NDD)

    • The NSF allocation to the Directorate for Mathematics & Physical Sciences amounted to $754 million (19% of NSF)

    • The MPS allocation to Astronomical Sciences amounted to $122 million (3% of NSF)

So, even if you assume that the revenue for "non-defense discretionary" comes entirely from personal income taxes, funding basic research in astronomy is cheap. Out of every $1000 in revenue from personal income taxes, $365 goes into the non-defense discretionary fund. About $6.80 ends up in the hands of OSS & NSF. Of this, $2.11 goes to fund the entire Mathematics & Physical Sciences and Supporting Research & Technology programs. In the end, for every $1000 in taxes only 66 cents ends up funding Astronomical Research.

Visual frame for the bottom of the page