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House Approves $18.5 Billion Budget For NASA In 2016

The House approved an $18.5 billion budget for NASA in an appropriations bill passed on Wednesday.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to give NASA $18.5 billion in 2016 as part of an appropriations bill that was passed on Wednesday. The budget would fund the agency at the level requested in the White House’s fiscal year 2016 budget request released earlier this year.

Under the bill, NASA would receive the $18.5 billion the agency requested for 2016, an increase of more than $500 million from fiscal year 2015 enacted levels. While the bill does fund NASA at the requested level, it establishes different priorities as to how that money would be distributed throughout the agency.

The most stark difference between the agency’s request and the bill passed by the House would be the shifting of funds from Earth Science to Planetary Science. Under the bill, Planetary Science would receive more than $1.5 billion, an increase of nearly $200 million above the agency’s request, while Earth Science would be funded at approximately $1.7 billion, $250 million below the agency’s request.

The bill would provide the $1.1 billion in funding the agency requested for the Orion crew vehicle, while NASA’s Space Launch System would receive $2.3 billion, an increase of almost $1 billion above the administration’s budget request and more than $600 million more than it received in 2015.

The Commercial Crew Program would receive $1 billion in 2016. While this would be a decrease of nearly $250 million from the President’s budget request, it would still represent an increase of more than $200 million from fiscal year 2015 enacted levels and would be the most funding the program has received to date.

Additionally, the bill sets aside $140 million for a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, significantly more than the $30 million allocated in the administration’s budget request. The bill would also provide the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to Hubble, with the $620 million that was requested to keep the telescope on track for a 2018 launch.