Monday , November 22 2021

The house's budget bill denies NASA substantial increases to fund its ambitious lunar program

Homeowner do not intend to significantly increase NASA's budgetThis could jeopardize the agency's plans to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024.

Today the House Appropriations Committee published its latest financial statement for the 2021 financial yearDetailed information on the budgets of all commercial, judicial and scientific agencies in the United States. The bill would give NASA a total budget of $ 22.63 billion for next year, the same amount the agency received for 2020. However, it's almost $ 3 billion less than the $ 25.2 billion that the Trump administration requested in the president's budget request – a hefty amount that is intended to fund an ambitious lunar return.

NASA was very vocal about its goal of sending the first woman and the next man to the moon as part of the agency's Artemis program. And NASA has a very tight deadline to do that. In early 2019, Vice President Mike Pence asked the agency to bring people back to the moon by 2024. Many experts were skeptical of NASA's ability to achieve the rapidly approaching goal given the enormous amount of technology development, testing, and funding required.

In the President's budget proposal released in February, the Trump administration presented its desired budget for the next five years to help fund the Artemis program. The proposal called for NASA's budget to be raised to around $ 26 or $ 27 billion a year, and possibly to $ 28.6 billion in 2023. Today's budget signals that Congress is unwilling to provide this full amount.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in funding is to develop a human lunar lander, a critical technology needed to transport astronauts to the surface of the moon. In April, NASA placed orders with three major companies – Blue Origin, SpaceX and Dynetics – to further explore the concepts of lunar lander. The President's budget request asked for a whopping $ 3.4 billion to be devoted to the development of human lunar lands. Instead, the House Appropriations Committee only provided $ 1.56 billion for exploration research and development, including money for the human lunar landing system. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said that only $ 628.2 million would be made available to the countries – almost $ 3 billion less than the agency had hoped for.

Despite this large discrepancy, Bridenstine was optimistic about the calculation. "Funding the Human Landing System (HLS) of $ 628.2 million is an important first step in this year's appropriation process," said Bridenstine in a statement. "We have more to do and I look forward to working with the Senate to ensure that America has the resources to land the first woman and next man on the moon in 2024."

This year in particular, it would be difficult to give NASA such a big boost. after Casey Dreier, the chief lawyer and senior space policy advisor to the Planetary Society. The Congress’s spending ceilings have increased, but not significantly, he says. In addition, the funding that the homeowners provide to NASA is derived from a large amount of money that the home provides to science, judicial, and commercial agencies. And this year, the house has granted the Department of Justice a substantial increase – nearly $ 1 billion – to address police reform in response to the police murder of George Floyd.

"Congress has redistributed these funds among their priorities," says Dreier The edge. He says congressmen are responding to what's happening on the ground, including recent protests and "increasing awareness of racist injustice." He also speculates that the Trump administration's increasing acceptance of human images for space travel may not help the democratically run house to promote NASA's budget increase. Recently, the Trump campaign created a political ad using footage from NASA about the recent crew launch of the SpaceX crew to the International Space Station. After receiving the backlash, the ad was removed from the campaign.

"Aligning a party to such a gentle government ideological activity naturally leads to opposition from the opposing party and becomes a symbol," says Dreier.

As Bridenstine indicated in his statement, the house bill is not a closed deal. House legislators will review the bill, and eventually the Senate Committee on Funds will publish its own bill specifying NASA funding. If everything goes according to plan, Congress will reconcile the two bills and eventually submit the final budget for NASA for next year. That said, there is still a long way to go before NASA will figure out how much money it will receive for 2021.

About Cameron Roy Russell

Cameron Roy Russell is a 26 years old local activist who enjoys podcasting, walking and stealing candy from babies. He is energetic, but can also be very untrustworthy and a bit sadistic.

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