The U.S. House appropriations agency has no plans to significantly increase NASA’s budget, which could jeopardize the agency’s plan to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024,media reported. On July 7, local time, the House Appropriations Committee released its latest fiscal year 2021 appropriations proposal, which details the budgets of all U.S. businesses, judicial and scientific agencies.
Under the proposal, NASA’s total budget for next year would be $22.63 billion, the same as the agency’s 2020 budget. But that’s nearly $3 billion less than the $25.2 billion the Trump administration asked for in the president’s budget request, which is clearly a huge sum of money and is being used for ambitious moon landings.
As part of the Artemis project, NASA has been outspoken that its goal is to send the first woman and a second male to the moon. NASA’s deadline is very tight. In early 2019, Vice President Mike Pence challenged the agency to return humans to the moon by 2024. Given the amount of technology development, testing, and funding required to achieve this goal, many experts are skeptical that NASA will be able to achieve this fast-moving goal.
In the president’s budget request, released in February, the Trump administration proposed a budget plan needed over the next five years to help fund the Artemis project. The proposal calls for NASA’s budget to increase to about $26 billion or $27 billion a year, possibly $28.6 billion by 2023. Today’s House appropriations proposal, however, shows that Congress is not willing to provide so much budget.
Perhaps the biggest part of the money involved the development of a human lunar rover, a key technology necessary to transport astronauts to the moon’s surface. In April, NASA awarded contracts to three companies — Blue Origin, SpaceX and Dynetics — to further study the concept of a lunar lander. The president’s budget calls for $3.4 billion for the development of human lunar vehicles. Instead, the House Appropriations Committee provided only $1.56 billion for research and development, including funding for the human lunar landing system. Only $628.2 million of that went to lander development, nearly $3 billion less than NASA had expected, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.
Despite the huge gap, Mr Bridenstine is optimistic about the new budget proposal. “The $628.2 million for the Human Landing System (HLS) is an important first step in this year’s appropriations process,” he said in a statement. We have a lot of work to do, and I look forward to working with the Senate to ensure that the United States has the resources to send the first woman and the next man to the moon in 2024. “
Casey Dreier, chief advocate and senior space policy adviser at Planetary Society, said NASA will have a hard time getting a big boost, especially this year. He said Congress’s spending cap, while higher, was modest. In addition, the House Appropriations Agency’s funding for NASA comes from a huge amount of money that the House allocates to science, justice and business. This year, the House of Representatives sharply increased funding to the Justice Department to help address police reform issues such as the killing of black citizen George Floyd by the police.
Moreover, as Mr. Bridenstine suggested in his statement, the House bill has not yet been finalized. Members of the House of Representatives will review the bill, and the Senate Appropriations Committee will also release its budget proposal. If all goes according to plan, Congress will coordinate the two bills and eventually produce a final budget for NASA next year. That means there is still a long way to go before NASA can figure out how much money it will receive in 2021.