With the government, including NASA, funded for the rest of the fiscal year, Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas addressed a meeting of the Space Studies Board of the National Academies. He took credit for the generous $19.6 billion that the space agency got and well he might as he chairs the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. Culberson also took the time to look ahead to FY2018.

Culberson’s goal is to get NASA north of $20 billion to as much as $21 billion a year, or $1.9 billion above President Donald Trump’s request of $19.1 billion for the next fiscal year.

This spending level would allow the planetary science account to grow above $2 billion a year, which will accommodate Culberson’s favorite projects, the Europa Clipper and the Europa Lander.

The increased funding level will also go a ways to getting deep space exploration off the ground. This is of particular importance as the Trump administration is interested in some near term lunar exploration in advance of the Journey to Mars. Even with international and commercial partnerships, such an undertaking is going to require some money.

Even Earth Science is due to prosper under the Culberson regime. Earth Science at NASA has been targeted for its unfortunate association with the climate change wars that are currently raging.

Trump requested the cancellation of some Earth observation missions. It looks like Culberson intends to ignore that request.

In effect, a conservative Republican from Texas has become the best friend of science in the United States Congress. One hopes that the folks who participated in the March for Science appreciate the fact.

Culberson did offer a little caution. With the need to repair the military and pay for a tax cut, the competition of federal dollars is likely to intensify. So finding enough money to fund everything that space enthusiasts want NASA to do may become a challenge.

On the other hand, Culberson mentioned that he has a good relationship with his Senate counterpart, Sen Richard Shelby and the new director of the OMB, a former congressman named Mick Mulvaney.

The stars may be aligning for an increase in Nasa Funding and a restart of space exploration. In times past either the president was for an increase and Congress was against it, as was the case in the George H. W. Bush president, or it was the other way around when Barack Obama was president. Now President Donald Trump is keen to make space exploration “great again.” Members of Congress like Culberson are willing to find a way for him to pay for it.