The White House is calling for $18.5 billion for NASA in its fiscal year 2016 budget request released on Monday.
The Obama administration’s 2016 budget proposal is more than $1 billion above their 2015 budget request, and is $519 million more than the agency received in 2015. The proposed budget focuses on returning human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, as well as a mission to Europa.
“That’s a half billion-dollar increase over last year’s enacted budget, and it is a clear vote of confidence in you – the employees of NASA – and the ambitious exploration program you are executing,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said of the president’s budget proposal at an event held at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The president’s budget request seeks a substantial increase in funding for the Commercial Crew Program, providing more than $1.2 billion, up from the $805 million it received in 2015. The Commercial Crew Program has historically received less than the requested levels of funding, leading to delays in the program.
The U.S. has been dependent upon Russia to transport astronauts to the International Space Station since the space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. The U.S. is currently paying Russia just over $70 million per seat to transport NASA astronauts to and from the orbiting space station.
The Commercial Crew Program is a NASA initiative intended to encourage the development of private spacecraft capable of transporting crew to and from the International Space Station. NASA has selected Boeing and SpaceX to provide commercial transportation services to the International Space Station starting in 2017.
In addition to commercial spaceflight, the budget proposal supports NASA’s own human spaceflight initiatives. NASA would receive approximately $1.1 billion for its Orion spacecraft, which had its first test flight late last year. It also provides $1.3 billion for the Space Launch System, NASA’s new heavy lift rocket, which was recently given the go-ahead to begin development. While both programs would receive less money than they did in 2015, officials say the funding would keep these programs on schedule for launch no later than 2018.
The budget proposal would also provide $620 million to keep the James Webb Space Telescope on track for launch in 2018. The NASA budget request also allocates $30 million for a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. While this is less than the $100 million dollars provided in the enacted 2015 budget, it is twice the amount requested by the White House last year.
Under the proposed budget, NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, which focuses on finding and tracking potentially hazardous asteroids and comets, would receive $50 million in 2016, an increase of $10 million. This comes after the agency’s NEO Program saw its budget doubled following the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded over Russia in 2013 injuring more than 1,000 people on the ground.
However, the budget proposal isn’t without its cuts. It provides no funding for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or the Mars rover Opportunity. The White House excluded funding for Opportunity from its 2015 budget request as well, although funding was later secured to keep the Mars rover running. Opportunity, which is starting to show its age, just celebrated its 11th year roving the Red Planet. Agency officials hope to find the funding needed to keep the missions alive.
“The State Of NASA Is Strong,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden proclaimed in a speech delivered at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “I couldn’t be more excited about our future! We’re making steady progress and continuing to reach for new heights. ”
Tell Congress that you support increasing funding for NASA today: http://www.penny4nasa.org/take-action/