The best thing that can be said about the Trump administration’s proposed NASA budget is that it was not as horrible as rumors had suggested it would be. Some indications had suggested that the new president would cut the #Space Agency by more than a billion dollars. The actual budget proposal would slice space spending by a couple of hundred million, a blessing compared to the hit that some non-defense spending took. That doesn’t mean that Congress is going to swallow the proposed spending with any enthusiasm.
Some of the winners in the #NASA spending proposal, according to USA Today, included space exploration, commercial space subsidies, planetary science, and aeronautics. Some of the losers include the asteroid redirect mission, the Europa Lander, a number of climate monitoring probes in the Earth science account, and the entire education program. No mention is made of a return to the moon. For now, NASA is still fixed on the Journey to Mars.
Part of the problem is that Trump does not have his space policy team nominated, not to speak of confirmed and in place. The NASA budget is a product of the Office of Management and Budget with some input from the acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. Absent any guidance from the Trump administration, the new budget proposal is pretty much #Status Quo, albeit with a slice in spending and some money moved around.
The budget proposal is only the first step in a long process that will include a congressional budget followed, in due course, by spending bills, sometimes after the new fiscal year has already begun. The final spending level and what accounts the money is being spent on will likely not resemble what is set out in the current document.
Nevertheless, Trump’s first NASA budget proposal reflects the fact that the new president has not exactly hit the ground running where it comes to space policy. This is not unusual. The Obama administration had not canceled the Bush-era Constellation program until over a year into its first term. The younger Bush had not proposed a deep space exploration program until its first term was nearly over. Still, the budget document is something of a disappointment, albeit not a disaster, for those looking for significant changes in space policy.