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The Trump government is calling for large budget increases for NASA to fund the Moon-to-Mars program

President Trump is calls for a 12 percent increase in NASA’s budget for next year to ensure that the agency sends people back to the surface of the moon by 2024. The administration’s proposed budget today provides NASA with $ 25.2 billion for fiscal year 2021, a significant increase over $ 22 , 6 billion that the agency received this year.

If it is adopted as it is, the budget would be the biggest financial shock the space agency has received in decades. Almost half the budget – $ 12.3 billion – would be spent on financing the Artemis program from NASA, the ambitious plan to get the first woman on the moon in five years. Of this, nearly $ 3.4 billion would be invested in the development of new commercial landers to bring people to and from the moon surface, while more than $ 700 million would be spent on financing activities on the moon.

“The mission of NASA is to bring American astronauts back to the moon by 2024 and build a lasting presence on the lunar surface as the first step on a journey that will bring America to Mars,” explains the president’s budget request. The budget emphasizes that the ultimate goal of Artemis is to get people to Mars. Additional budget material claims that NASA’s activities on the moon are meant to gain experience and test technologies that will help send NASA astronauts to the Red Planet one day. And to ensure that Mars is not forgotten, an additional amount of $ 233 million has been reserved for provisional robot missions to the Red Planet as part of Artemis.

While NASA’s human exploration initiatives would get a huge boost with this proposal, the budget request cancels many of the same scientific programs that have been in the sights of the president since taking office. The request does not provide funding for the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, a gigantic new space observatory that Trump has repeatedly tried to cancel in previous applications. The report also calls for the cancellation of two earth science missions – PACE and CLARREO Pathfinder – once again, while the STA Engagement NASA office is being abolished. This year, the administration also wants to cancel NASA’s SOFIA mission, a specially equipped 747 aircraft that serves as an airborne observatory, arguing that “it has not been scientifically as productive as other missions.”

NASA’s SOFIA observatory
Image: NASA

However, the proposal is not yet a foregone conclusion. The President’s budget request is just the beginning of a very long process that will determine NASA’s budget for next year. Both the Chamber and the Senate credit providers will have to take into account, and it is unclear how much of this request lawmakers will keep in drafting their proposals. In the past, Congress has ignored the Trump government’s attempts to cancel certain NASA projects, and lawmakers are likely to continue to follow that trend.

After the White House had released its budget request, NASA provided more details about the proposal, which shows how much money the agency expects to finance the Artemis program in the coming five years. NASA anticipates that $ 26 billion to $ 27 billion will be needed annually over the next five years, with a sum of $ 28.6 billion for 2023. It is close to NASA manager Jim Bridenstine’s estimate last year regarding to the total costs of the Artemis program. He argued that NASA would probably need an additional $ 20 to $ 30 billion over the next five years to make Artemis Moon landings happen. All in all, the budget requires that the entire Moon-to-Mars program needs $ 71 billion up to 2024, including programs that exist before Artemis was created.

At the heart of NASA’s Artemis program are two pieces of hardware that the agency has developed over the past decade: a huge deep-space rocket known as the Space Launch System (SLS) and a new crew capsule called Orion, designed to take people too deep space destinations. Both programs, which have strong conference support, are well funded in this request, with the SLS receiving $ 2.25 billion for next year and Orion receiving $ 1.4 billion. After years of delay, the rocket and capsule are expected to make their debut flight somewhere in 2021.

NASA’s administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks about the new presidential budget request
Image: NASA

Although the SLS receives full funding, the request proposes to postpone the development of a new, more powerful upper part of the rocket. The administration states that the new hardware is too expensive and is not necessary to get people to the moon by 2024.

The request also emphasizes commercially developed vehicles. The administration is calling on NASA to use a commercial rocket to launch the agency’s flagship mission to Jupiter’s lunar Europe. NASA currently has a mandate from Congress to use the SLS to fly the mission. The budget documents from NASA claim that the use of an existing commercial vehicle – such as the Falcon Heavy or the Delta IV Heavy – instead of the SLS will save the agency $ 1.5 billion.

Moreover, the budget proposal wants human landers to be commercially developed – something that has become somewhat controversial for legislators. The administration also wants commercial rockets to launch the pieces of a new space station NASA hopes to build around the moon, called the Gateway.

Regarding the international space station, the request provides funding for the project until 2025. This is in contrast to an earlier budget request from 2018, in which the government suggested Trump to end direct funding for the ISS by the end of 2024. no longer calls for the ISS to be canceled by 2024, but this proposal does emphasize NASA’s desire to switch control over the space station and the domain of the low earth to commercial companies that may have their own stations in orbit want to turn our planet around. NASA has requested $ 150 million to help with this transition.

In general, the Trump administration is proposing a robust budget for NASA, something that the agency has not seen for some time. And if NASA is expected to get on the moon soon, it needs a big increase in funding to at least meet the deadline. But many congressional legislators have already expressed skepticism about NASA’s Artemis program, doubting the need to land people by 2024 – a fairly political deadline that would coincide with the end of a second possible deadline for Trump. In addition, the large increase is being requested for NASA, while the administration is keeping an eye on cuts in domestic aid programs and the Environmental Protection Agency.

It is doubtful that the board gets as much as it wants for the space agency, even though Trump has personally called on Congress to fund the Artemis program in his State of the Union speech. The coming year will show exactly how much lawmakers are willing to give and what they believe should be NASA’s priorities.