May 25, 2022

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NASA's Human Lunar Landing Program Finally Gets Full Funding in its New Budget Bill

NASA’s Human Lunar Landing Program Finally Gets Full Funding in its New Budget Bill

If the sweeping spending bill is signed into Congress, it would finally provide full funding for some of the major NASA projects that have been underfunded over the past few years. It is worth noting that NASA’s program to develop a new human lander on the moon will be fully funded in accordance with the president’s budget, as well as the program for the development of new commercial space stations in low Earth orbit.

Inclusive, NASA will receive $24.041 billion for 2022 in this new billwhich will fund the US government for the 2022 fiscal year. NASA’s share is about $800 million less than $24.8 billion Budget request requested from President Joe Biden in May 2021. However, NASA will still see a slight rise from its total funding for fiscal year 2021, which was $23.27 billion.

Although the Congressional plan won’t fully meet the president’s budget request, there are a handful of projects that House and Senate lawmakers have finally agreed to fully fund. The bill would give NASA’s Human Landing System the $1.195 billion requested by the request. NASA is currently developing a human lunar lander as part of the Artemis program, an initiative to send the first woman and first people of color to the moon. Previously, Congress had shown reluctance to give NASA the money it requested for the lander. for the year 2021, The funds provided only $850 million subordinate I asked for $3.4 billion for the landing craft.

As a result of the cash shortage, NASA made some changes to its Artemis plans. Originally, the space agency had hoped to select at least two commercial companies to build human lunar vehicles for Artemis as a way to spark competition and redundancy. But with a fraction of the money allocated to the program, NASA chose only one companySpaceX, to develop its Starship into a lander, Quoting the company’s low price as a big consideration in this decision.

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Now, if NASA receives the money it has requested for the landing system this year, Congress is calling on the space agency to “make a publicly available plan outlining how it will ensure safety, repeatability, sustainability and competition” in the human lunar landing program. , within 30 days of signing the invoice. Congress is also asking NASA to provide a detailed list of the resources it will need through 2026 to achieve these goals. The wording does not explicitly say that NASA should select a second company to develop a human lander, although An earlier version of the House of Representatives appropriations bill They expressed concern about the agency’s decision to select only one company.

Another area of ​​NASA that is notably underfunded is the agency’s program to develop a successor to the International Space Station. Residents in low Earth orbit, the International Space Station is funded Until 2024, despite the Biden administration Announced plans to extend operations into 2030. (It is unclear whether Russia will agree to this, Given the current circumstances.) Regardless, once the space station program is over, NASA hopes to sponsor the private space industry to develop its own commercial space stations that will take over the LEO domain. They can provide platforms for NASA astronauts to visit in the post-ISS era.

However, NASA struggled to get money for this transition program. For 2020 and 2021, NASA requested $150 million for the two fiscal years, but Congress only appropriated $15 million and then $17 million. But for 2022, NASA has requested $101.1 million for this year, and the acquirers have appropriated the full amount in the new bill.

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For other NASA programs, funding remains relatively stable. NASA’s largest human spaceflight projects, the Space Launch System rocket and Orion’s crew capsule, will receive the full amount of funding, with just over the amount required for the SLS. The flag receives $7.614 billion, lower than the budget request but higher than last year. The space agency will also receive the full $653 million it has requested to work on the Mars sample return, which will serve to return samples collected by NASA’s Perseverance rover to Earth. In addition, NASA’s SOFIA program, a flying observatory on a modified Boeing 747, is still receiving funding. Despite calls for its abolition.

There are shortcomings in other areas as well. But in particular, even big-budget items — including a human lunar lander and the development of a commercial space station — can’t use all their money just yet. The bill states that these and other projects can only receive 40 percent of the allocated amounts until a NASA official submits a multi-year plan for Artemis and NASA’s Moon efforts that includes dates for major milestones, partnerships, and more, along with funding estimates to achieve these milestones. So while some NASA programs are seeing an increase in funding, there’s still more work to be done before that money can be used.