NASA Funding Remains Largely the Same, Priorities Have Changed

NASA's Mars Mission

Trump administration has outlined the new priorities NASA should focus on.

Trump administration plans to give NASA $19.1 billion in funds for the Mars Mission, an exploration program to Jupiter’s moon Europa, and a cybersecurity plan for the U.S. space program. However, several programs might face dramatic cuts, including missions to asteroids, Earth science and education programs.

NASA to Focus on Mars Mission, Ditch Asteroid Missions

Last year, Congress gave NASA a $19.3 billion budget, but priorities have changed. The White House plans deep cuts in non-military areas, The EPA would see its budget trimmed by 31 percent.

Trump also wants NASA to shift its priorities, as his ‘skinny budget’ draft showed on Thursday. The president wants NASA to cooperate with the private sector for its deep space exploration endeavors, and put on hold Earth science programs.

However, Congress could change dramatically the budget proposal, which agrees with Obama only on two key issues: The Mars mission and increased cooperation with private spaceflight companies for low-orbit missions.

Trump scrapped the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which the U.S. space agency had high hopes for. The GOP apparently doesn’t see the utility of an asteroid mission, while Obama couldn’t see the use of a Moon mission.

Even though the moon mission was not mentioned in the draft since it is a rather costly mission, Congress may revive the mission as preparation for a Mars journey. A Moon mission could be important as three are still many unexplored mining opportunities, and the Russians and the Chinese are already preparing for a moon landing.

Other Priorities

About $3.7 billion will go to the Space Launch System and the Orion capsule which will take astronauts to Mars and to other deep space objectives. The proposed budget does not allocate a specific sum to commercial activates, but encourages “collaboration” with private companies such as SpaceX, ATK, and Boeing.

Around $1.9 billion will be used for the development of a Mars robotic rover by the end of the decade and of the Clipper orbiter, which is designed to analyze Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

Earth science programs will lose $100 million in funds under the new budget plan. This echoes the new administration’s skepticism toward climate change. Education programs will lose $115 million since some of them are “duplicative of other parts of the budget.

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