President Donald Trump has requested a 12% increase in NASA funding for next year to improve their activities and experiments on the lunar surface. By 2024, they want to put the American astronauts back on the moon’s surface and within the next 5 years, NASA wants its first woman astronaut on the moon (Artemis project).
A statement in the budget request from President’s office says that “NASA’s top priority mission is to return American astronauts to Moon by 2024 and build a sustainable presence on the lunar surface as the first step towards a journey that would take America to Mars”. NASA’s proposed budget that was released on 10th February says that the will be provided with $25.2 billion for 2021. this is a major increase in funding compared to $22.6 billion received last year.
The budget breakup is as follows: nearly half of the amount, i.e, $12.3 billion will go towards the Artemis project, $3.4 billion will go in developing new commercial landers for taking people to and fro from the Moon. $700 million will go towards funding the activities on Moon. And an additional $23 million will be kept aside for the precursory robotic missions to the red planet as a part of Artemis.
The budget states that the major aim or the Artemis project it to take human beings to Mars and the studies and budget spend on Moon are a precursor towards obtaining the Mars goals someday. Although NASA’s space exploration missions are having an advantage due to this proposal, a lot of other science projects carried out by the organization are getting canceled. Some of the projects like a Wide Field Infrared Telescope are denied the funding because the President was not interested in the project from the start. Certain other Earth science missions like PACE, CLARREO pathfinder, SOFIA mission (a specifically outfitted 747 plane) are getting canceled.
In past, the congress had ignored a lot of Trump administration’s requests to cancel a few NASA projects and thus, it is not sure how much of this new request will be considered by the lawmakers. This proposal is just the first step of a long process where the senate has to weigh and decide how on how much to spend on the projects and what fund is to be allocated.
After the Trump Administration gave the proposals, NASA released an estimated budget for it’s Artemis project according to which they might need funding of around $30 billion each year for the next 5 years to complete the project. The estimated amount given by NASA at the end of 2023 is 28.6 billion. These amounts are close to those estimated last year by Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator.
The major components developed in the Artemis program are, the Space Launch System(SLS) and a new capsule called Orion to take astronauts to space. The SLS is receiving $2.25 billion and Orion is getting $1.4 billion. The administration wants NASA to use commercial rockets for launching the flagship mission to Jupiter’s Moon. They also say that using the existing commercial vehicle such as Delta IV or Falcon Heavy instead of SLS will save $1.5 billion to the agency. The administration added that they want the commercial rockets to launch components of the new space station to the moon.
The budget proposed by Trump administration is quite robust and good for NASA. But even for NASA to get to the Moon to meet its deadline, it will require a large amount of funding even to make the first attempt. 2024 is a completely political deadline that would coincide with the ending of the 2nd term of the Trump administration. This request for budget raise in NASA’s funding is given when the administration is trying to assign certain amounts to domestic aid programs and Environmental protection agency.
Due to all these reasons it is doubtful whether the administration will agree to all the requests put forward for the space agency even though Trump had personally talked to congress to fund the Artemis program. We will come to know this year exactly how much the lawmakers are willing to provide NASA.