It’s not good news for the space agency, as NASA’s budget might be cut to $19 billion next year if the proposal from the Obama administration is approved. That means less funds for several research areas.
- NASA’s 2017 budget could be cut from $19.3 billion to $19 billion
- The Obama administration proposes to cut funds from planetary science and deep space exploration
- Instead, the funds will be directed toward Earth science and climate change
According to the proposal, President Obama’s final budget allocates $19 billion for NASA’s projects in 2017, which is a little less than the $19.3 billion it received for 2016’s fiscal year. However, there are several changes made in how the funds will be distributed. More apparently, it seems the administration wants less focus on foreign planets and much more concentration on our own home.
Specifically, the proposal suggested cuts of $800 for deep space exploration and a $100 million reduction for planetary science. That rightly implies a future manned mission to Mars, that has come under fire recently. The Science, Space, and Technology Committee recently criticized the possibility of heading off to the Red Planet, as well as the mission to redirect an asteroid. It was called near unachievable due to major costs and advancement in technology that NASA does not yet possess.
The proposal seems to further sink that possibility. According to Lamar Smith from the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, the cuts essentially “tie our astronauts’ feet to the ground”, making a future manned mission to Mars “all but impossible”. It is possible that this means NASA will be forced into heeding requests and instead direct its attention to a manned mission to the Moon. However, it’s unclear yet if the budget cut will mean the end.
In the past, Congress has ensured that space programs will be getting the required budget, which enabled the U.S. to remain the leading force in space exploration. Perhaps this will once again be the case in 2017. Otherwise, it’s not looking good.
Todd May from the Marshall Space Flight Center still seemed optimistic. He stated that their plans always include some degree of flexibility just in case of budget constraints. Instead, they direct their attention mainly to fulfilling their commitment. They are all working for the purpose of keeping the nation ahead of anyone else, and the team will not be focusing on potential cuts in funds.
In fact, they will still be going on as usual with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, aiming for the first test to take place in 2018. A few years later, in 2023, NASA is still pushing for a trial with a crew on board, along with the Orion capsule. Both space crafts are crucial to a future manned mission to Mars.
According to the numbers within the proposal, the administration allocates $5.6 billion for science, $3.3 billion for deep space exploration, $5.1 billion for space operations such as up keeping the International Space Station (ISS), $1.5 billion for planetary science such as a new Mars rover for 2020, and $1.2 billion for the Commercial Crew program.
The Obama administration’s interest to Earth was emphasized by the additional $250 million allocated to Earth science, and the $2.2 billion directed at understanding the effects of climate change on our planet. The message seems to be that we should first explore and fix our own home before beginning to understand and explore other planets.
It is to be mentioned that the proposal also included $80 million per astronaut to be given to Russia when sending a crew member out to the ISS. However, this will change in the coming years when NASA along with SpaceX and Boeing will complete the Commercial Crew program.
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