President Joe Biden on Monday released his budget request for the upcoming fiscal year, and NASA is the big winner. The administration is asking Congress to fund $25.9 billion for the space agency in 2023, an increase of nearly $2 billion over the $24 billion the agency received for fiscal year 2022.
The Budget request for NASA It includes a healthy increase for the Artemis program, which seeks to carry out a series of human moon landings later this decade. Notably, HLS funding will increase from $1.2 billion for the current fiscal year to $1.5 billion, allowing a second provider to start working. In addition, funding for lunar spacesuits will increase from $100 million to $276 million. NASA will also receive significant funding – $48 million – to begin developing human exploration campaigns for the moon and beyond.
All of this new funding comes in the proposed budget in addition to the billions that NASA spends annually to develop the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. Thus, total funding for Artemis will increase from $6.8 billion in fiscal year 2022 to $7.5 billion in the next fiscal year, which begins on October 1, 2022.
This means that for the first time, the agency can have all the funds it needs for major programs to carry out Artemis Moon landings. “This budget puts us on the right track,” NASA Assistant Administrator Bob Cabana said during a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon.
Money must come
There is reason to believe that NASA will get most of the money that President Biden has requested. In the past year, to a large extent, the Democratic-led Congress has backed the president’s budget priorities for NASA. The agency’s director, former US Senator Bill Nelson, has demonstrated his skill in working with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. So if NASA can get all the funding it asked for, shouldn’t the public demand the results in return?
The agency’s current schedule for the first three Artemis missions calls for the launch of Artemis 1 (an unmanned lunar flight) this summer, Artemis 2 (a crewed lunar flight) in 2024, and Artemis 3 (astronauts landing on the moon) in year 2025.
Jim Frey, associate administrator in NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, was asked if NASA could commit to landing humans on the Moon by 2025 if the agency received the full budget request this year and in the follow-up years.
Frey replied, “I can tell you that we are working every day to get Artemis 1, Artemis 2 in 2024, Artemis 3 in 2025 off.” “I’m not sure what a commitment is like for you, but I can tell you a lot of people come into work every day and work to get to 2025.”
Other parts of the budget
Combined with the Artemis program, the budget request will fund NASA’s science programs to ever greater levels, due in large part to cost overruns in Europa clipper Mission. The cost of the mission, which will make dozens of flights to the interesting Jovian moon from where its name derives, increased by $703 million to nearly $5 billion. To accommodate the cost overruns, several other missions will be delayed, including the NEO Surveyor, a mission to detect near-Earth asteroids.
The budget request also seeks to more than double funding for a “commercial” space station development program when the ISS is retired. NASA is working with four different contractors on different proposals to have these private space stations either ready to go or in orbit by late 2020. To fund this effort called Commercial Low Earth Orbit Development, the requested budget is asking for an increase from $103 million in 2022 to 224 Million dollars.
“NASA’s strong budget sends a message to our clients and investors about the agency’s intentions and confidence in our vision, and [the budget] “It also supports the United States’ competitive leadership in the commercial sector,” said Michael Suffredini, president and CEO of Axiom, one of the companies working with NASA.
Funding for these commercial station options appears likely, given the current tensions between the United States and its main partner on the International Space Station, Russia.