Proposed NASA FY 2020 budget of $22.75 billion set to be approved

A $22.75 billion spending bill has been approved to use by NASA in the fiscal year 2020, which has been set into motion by a Senate appropriations subcommittee, which would mostly benefit the space agency’s upcoming Artemis program.

The commerce, justice and science subcommittee favorably reported its appropriations bill in a brief markup session, and NASA uploaded a file presentation detailing how the budget will be spent and in which areas.

For now, the proposed bill provides less funding than requested for human lunar landing systems, augments the SLS budget to support the development of the Exploration Upper Stage, and rejects all proposed program cancellations, same as the House bill.

The House and Senate must yet reconcile the differences between their bills, vote once more time, and have that legislation signed by the President before NASA receives its funding for the fiscal year 2020.

On the other hand, the proposed $22.75 billion spending budget touts NASA to have a 5% increase compared to the previous year. The supplemental request was released in response to a Presidential directive to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024 or otherwise known as President Donald Trump’s Space Policy Directive-1.

The directive ”provides for the foundation of a national exploration campaign that will use the experience of the NASA workforce, coupled with the agility and innovation of our commercial and international partners, to create an architecture that is open, sustainable and agile. This unified effort will inspire generations and change the course of history as we realize the next great scientific, economic and technical achievements in space,” NASA says.

Significantly, under Trump’s administration, NASA’s annual spending budget is at an upward trend whereas 2020’s $22.75 billion included in the bill is $1.25 billion above what NASA received in the fiscal year 2019, and $435 million above what the House provided in its 2020 spending bill, approved in June.

The bill “provides increased resources for scientific missions, aeronautics, restoring critical STEM education programs and advancing human space exploration,” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said in his opening statement.

“Within the funding provided, NASA will be able to make significant progress in fulfilling the accelerated goal of returning astronauts, including the first woman, to the moon by 2024,” Moran said.

Mainly, the increased budget can be likened to NASA’s upcoming and highly anticipated man’s return to the moon’s surface through the Artemis program, which is largely taking up a lot of the space agency’s resources.

There are three main components in NASA’s Artemis program that will get humans from Earth back to the lunar surface. One is the Space Launch System or SLS, which is a super rocket that will launch astronauts to space, the Orion that is NASA’s next-generation space capsule, and Gateway, which is lunar orbiter space station that will serve as a way station for both astronauts and spacecraft before landing on the moon or going further out into space.

In the budget, exploration programs received a $1.2 billion increase over 2019 in the bill. That total includes $2.586 billion for the Space Launch System, more than $400 million above 2019 levels, and $1.4 billion for Orion, slightly above 2019 levels. The additional SLS funding includes $300 million for work on the Exploration Upper Stage planned for the Block 1B version of the SLS, financing that the administration did not seek in its original funding request.

However, the bill did not fully adopt the $1.6 billion budget amendment submitted by the administration in May. While NASA sought $1 billion for human lunar landers, the bill provides $744 million.

Other than Artemis-related numbers, the budget also highlights other missions under NASA apart from its administrative and facilities.

In particular, the proposed budget will continue to fund robotic exploration of the Solar System including the next Mars rover launch in 2020 and a Europa Clipper mission to launch in 2023.

Additionally, it will fund a Mars Sample Return Mission to retrieve samples from Mars, and return those samples with the first launch from another planet and help NASA explore the universe with the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2021.

Meanwhile, the proposed cuts to the budget include the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) in Astrophysics: “given delays and cost growth with the James Webb Space Telescope, the Administration is not ready to proceed with another multi-billion-dollar space telescope.”

Also, the PACE and CLARREO Pathfinder missions in Earth Science: “they are lower priorities within the current fiscal environment.”

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