A flat budget for NASA against hopes

The budget will take particular aim at the agency’s efforts to develop lunar landers. SpaceNews mentioned that the commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations bill, would provide NASA with $22.629 billion in fiscal year 2021.

A flat budget for NASA against hopes
A flat budget for NASA against hopes

A flat budget for NASA against hopes

A House appropriations bill released on July 7 offered NASA a flat budget for 2021, rejecting the administration’s proposed major budget increase for NASA. The budget will take particular aim at the agency’s efforts to develop lunar landers.

SpaceNews mentioned that the commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations bill, would provide NASA with $22.629 billion in fiscal year 2021. That is the same amount the agency received in the final fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill, but significantly less than the $25.246 billion the administration requested in its budget proposal in February.

NASA’s Exploration R & D budget line was targeted by the appropriators for the biggest cuts. NASA sought $4.7 billion for the programs funded there, which include Human Landing System (HLS) effort to develop lunar landers for transporting astronauts to the lunar surface. The bill instead provides a little more than $1.5 billion, an increase of about $120 million from fiscal year 2020.

In a statement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the bill would provide $628.2 million for HLS, which he interpreted as a willingness to support the overall Artemis program and starting point for later budget negotiations. It was requested that the NASA’s science programs receive $6.3 billion, but would receive nearly $7.1 billion, almost the same as in 2020.

The bill says little about funding for specific missions, but increases in Earth science and astrophysics would be consistent with restoring funding for the PACE and CLARREO Pathfinder Earth science missions and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, formerly WFIRST, which were again proposed for cancellation in the budget proposal.

The bill does direct $403.5 million for the Europa Clipper mission, the same amount as the agency requested. The bill also increases funding for the SLS, offering $2.6 billion versus the $2.26 billion requested. The bill directs NASA to spend $400 million on the Exploration Upper Stage needed for the Block 1B version of SLS.

NASA’s space technology program would receive $1.1 billion, the same amount as 2020 but less than the nearly $1.58 billion requested. The House bill rejected the latest proposal to shut down NASA’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Engagement, or education, program. The bill provides $126 million to STEM Engagement, which had been zeroed out in the fiscal year 2021 budget proposal.