The White House has unveiled its NASA budget proposal for 2021, aiming to fund the space agency with $25.2 billion. NASA says almost $13 billion of this is an effort to get Americans to the moon and Mars; $6.3 billion for science; $3.5 billion for safety, security and mission services and construction and environmental remediation; $1.6 billion for exploration technology; and $819 million for aeronautics research.
NASA aims to be on the moon by 2024, with the White House budget saying NASA should then “build a sustainable presence on the lunar surface as the first steps” of a manned Mars mission. For these goals, the White House is proposing $3.4 billion for NASA to develop lander systems, $700 million for moon surface activities and $233 million for robotic Mars missions. The Space Launch System (SLS), Orion crew capsule, the Lunar Gateway and commercial lunar landers for humans and cargo delivery are listed as part of this.
“The budget funds the Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative,” the document, published Monday, says, “including technologies to generate power, excavate and construct structures on the moon and help astronauts live off the land.”
“From the Gateway in lunar orbit, astronauts will need a Human Landing System to ferry them to and from the moon’s surface,” NASA tweeted Monday. “Development of this ‘critical element of the Artemis architecture’ is funded in the 2021 fiscal budget.”
For the goal to land on Mars, the budget proposed funding a new Mars Ice Mapper mission to look for possible landing sites, and a Mars Sample mission to investigate launching from Mars.
Also listed in the budget to receive funding are the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology flight demonstrator to fly in 2022, research on integrating drones into space and ultra-fast hypersonic flight and hybrid jet engine systems for airliners.
NASA is getting no funding for its Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope; the Office of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) engagement; the SOFIA telescope; and two earth science missions, the budget proposed. “The budget continues to support education activities such as internships and fellowships funded outside of the Office of STEM engagement,” the document says.
The budget still needs to be voted on by Congress before being approved.
The proposed NASA funding increase of around 12% from 2020 comes as the Trump administration focuses on the, and the establishment last year of the US Space Command. , with space now being treated as an independent region to be overseen. Space is central to “America’s national security and defense,” President Donald Trump said, and is “the next war-fighting domain.”
Originally published Feb. 10, 1:00 p.m. PT.
Update, 1:56 p.m.: Correction: NASA budget has yet to be approved by Congress; around half the $25 billion is designated for the moon and Mars missions.
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