NASA is tasked with leading America into space, though the U.S. government has kept the space agency perennially underfunded the last several years. Well, that looks to change in 2016.
In a somewhat surprising move, Congress is eyeing a budget that would give NASA more money next year — even more than it’d been asking for, in fact. As The Verge reports, the omnibus spending bill would give NASA approximately $19.3 billion for next year. To put that in perspective, it’d mean an increase of $1.27 billion. It’s arguably still less than the agency needs (when you’re literally inventing technology for space travel, there’s no such thing as too much money), but it’s a big step in the right direction to keep the agency on track to hit its primary mission goals.
One project that looks to benefit most from the budget proposal is the commercial crew program, which is set to use private companies like SpaceX to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). NASA had been planning on launching the first crewed commercial flight in 2017, and with the increase in funding, they might actually be able to hit that goal. If the spending levels go through, an associated report notes Congress would want NASA to definitely hit that 2017 target. In the long run, this would save some money, since the U.S. is paying Russia $80 million per seat to get astronauts into space.
Looking beyond Earth orbit, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which is intended to get us to Mars, will receive a $300 million increase, up to $2 billion. The Orion crew capsule, which will be strapped to the top of the SLS when we eventually head for the Red Planet, also received a $70 million boost — up to $1.27 billion. That money is desperately needed, because work has reportedly fallen behind schedule on Orion due to (you guessed it) budget cuts.
We’ll have to wait until Friday, Dec. 18, to see if the House passes the spending bill before Congress goes on break for the holidays. For everyone wanting to ever make it beyond Earth orbit again, here’s hoping this one survives Congress.
(Via The Verge)