The president’s first federal budget appeared to meet his campaign promise of shifting the U.S. space agency’s attention away from Earth and toward deep space, although the outline makes no mention of the manned journey to Mars, or if the moon is a bigger preference.
Based on a blueprint of Trump’s 2018 budget requests, NASA’s overall budget will slightly shrink, from $19.285 billion received in fiscal year 2016 to $19.1 billion. The biggest chunk of funding would be allotted to the human exploration division, including the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System jumbo rocket poised for Mars.
But which projects are bound to suffer cancellation or budget cuts?
Targeted for cancellation is NASA program ARM, which seeks to fly a robotic space vehicle to a near-Earth object, obtain a boulder from the surface, and return to lunar orbit for astronauts to visit on a future Orion mission.
ARM did not enjoy excellent support, Space News reported, with many members of the Congress opposing the missions because these do not appear to support long-term exploration goals.
While ARM is getting the thumbs-down largely because of “increasing development costs” in exploration programs, Orion, SLS, and relevant ground systems would receive $3.17 billion, similar to what was allocated for them back in 2016.
Earth Sciences Program
NASA’s earth sciences initiatives will receive $1.8 billion, with a cut of $102 million or around 5 percent from its 2016 funds. Targeted for termination are planned or ongoing missions including the ocean-monitoring PACE satellite, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO) instruments for the ISS, and the CLARREO Pathfinder for measuring heat levels in our atmosphere.
The blueprint document did not disclose why these projects were being eyed for elimination.
In the agency’s 2017 budget request, projected spending on the CLARREO Pathfinder was $27.9 million, $9.5 million on OCO-3, $1.2 million on DSCOVR, and no actual figures provided for PACE.
NASA Office Of Education
The proposal also aims to eliminate the entire NASA education office, which in 2016 received $115 million.
“The Office of Education has experienced significant challenges in implementing a NASA-wide education strategy and is performing functions that are duplicative of other parts of the agency,” stated the document.
This office is engaged in running camps and enrichment programs, internships and scholarships for budding scientists, and support provision for women and minority groups in STEM fields.
The proposal offers no budget for the projected Europa lander mission, which is still in concept development stage. Europa is a Jupiter moon.
It also proposes “restructures” for satellite servicing initiative RESTORE-L, which the administration deemed “duplicative” and in need of cuts in order to buoy a “nascent commercial satellite servicing industry.”
The Commerce Department, on the other hand, would have its budget slashed by 16 percent. This office comprises the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which in a leaked memo is feared to have its funding cut by almost one-fifth.
In that previous White House document, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research could see its budget reduced by 26 percent or $126 million, while the satellite department could lose 22 percent or $513 million.