The #Obama Administration has put forth its FY 2017 NASA budget proposal, according to GeekWire. The overall spending level is $19 billion, an almost $300 million cut from the current fiscal year. Much of the money comes out of the development for the Orion deep #Space vehicle and the heavy lift Space Launch System, the very basis of the space agency’s plans for exploring deep space beyond low Earth orbit.
The decision to cut funding for deep space exploration architecture is likely to rouse the wrath of Congress, which has complained in the past about the administration’s tendency to short change crucial NASA accounts. The Coalition for Space Exploration has already expressed concern over the cuts as has Rep. Lamar Smith. R-Texas, who chairs the House Science Committee.
Rumors have also arisen that the administration’s plan for a Europa explorer will be a little less ambitious than Congress’s. The Obama administration contemplates a single Europa Clipper, which would fly by Europa, a moon of Jupiter, periodically, launched on an EELV. Rep John Culberson, R-Texas, who chairs the House subcommittee that funds NASA, is already on record as wanting a Europa lander included in the mission and that both would be launched on an SLS.
The proposed budget also has cuts in planetary science that will likely raise the hackles of the scientific community and its supporters.
Interestingly, the budget proposal has an item for developing public/private partnerships to promote “near the moon” as part of NASA’s strategy for the Journey to Mars. Many outside of NASA, including in Congress, the scientific community, and the commercial space sector have advocated a return to the lunar surface as part of a deep space exploration program. President Obama has issued an edict prohibiting the space agency from sending astronauts to the moon. But the current president leaves office in less than a year. The next president could change that directive. The strategy of public/private ventures would be a good fit for a return to the moon as well as “near the moon.”
In any case, it is a safe bet that the NASA budget that comes out of Congress will little resemble the one that was just proposed. #Government