NASA just got its best budget in decades


Casey Dreier • February 15, 2019

Patience pays for the space agency after months of delay

After months of unrelated political turmoil, multiple spending bills and an unprecedented government shutdown that blocked the US space program for 35 days, a law providing for NASA's 2019 budget was finally passed today. ; hui. Remarkably, NASA did very well at the end.

Congress provided $ 21.5 billion to NASA for the 2019 fiscal year. This represents an increase of 3.5% over the previous year and 8% over that proposed by the White House. The additional funds were widely distributed throughout the agency, particularly for science, aeronautics and human exploration programs. Given inflation, this is NASA's best budget since 1996.

NASA budget for fiscal years 2010 to 2019

Casey Dreier / The Global Society

NASA budget for fiscal years 2010 to 2019

Funding approved by the NASA Congress (in blue) compared to the amounts requested by the White House (green dotted). Not adjusted for inflation. The vertical axis is in millions of dollars.

NASA's Earth Sciences Division once again escaped cuts and slightly increased funding to $ 1.931 billion. The Global Science Division reached extraordinary new budget highs with $ 2.8 billion, again devoting significant resources to the Europa Clipper mission and $ 195 million to an unapproved lander.

Although the James Webb Space Telescope has been criticized by legislation, NASA has received approval to increase the mission's cost cap of $ 800 million, in addition to ongoing funding. WFIRST, the mission that followed JWST, was saved from the cancellation and received a major financial commitment of $ 312 million for 2019.

The NASA Education Division, initially set at the request of the President, received a $ 110 million boost and a name change for STEM Commitment.

The lunar initiative of the president was largely supported by the Congress. Almost all of its funding applications have been approved, but only 50% may be required to be required before NASA establishes a detailed schedule for a comprehensive lunar exploration program. The Gateway project received $ 450 million, slightly less than requested. Commercial payload services and the science-based lunar discovery program have both been fully approved.

NASA's low-Earth-orbit (LEO) commercialization proposal was not as successful: it received only $ 40 million, up from $ 150 million, and was directed to a tie-down node. of the ISS dedicated to "commercial activities".

Given inflation, this is the best budget for NASA since the mid-1990s and represents the fifth consecutive year that Congress has provided funding beyond that requested by the executive branch:

All dollar values ​​are in millions.

This budget includes many priorities of the Planetary Society, especially for global science. Additional funding for Mars activities was missing, although Mars Sample Return receives about $ 50 million for project studies.

Although the Democratic Party took control of the House of Representatives in January, this bill is very similar to NASA's funding bills released last year under total Republican control. This is probably due to the limited time available to congressional committees, the fact that this bill was supposed to have been passed before the Democrats took control anyway, and the higher consensus around NASA. In the absence of John Culberson, former chair of the CJS committee, things could be very different next time.

Now that NASA has funding for 2019, our eyes are on 2020. The White House is expected to release its formal request for the president's budget in March, by which time the whole process will begin again. Given the political animosity between the House of Representatives and the White House, the growing deficit and the lack of a general agreement on spending in Congress, we can look back and consider 2019 as a maximum of local budget support for the space program.


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