The budget for NASA in 2014 has been given an increase of $800 million, bringing the total to $17.65 billion. This increase guarantees funding of several current and future missions, in various stages of development. The omnibus appropriations bill was released on Monday by the House of Representatives.
NASA’s budget was of great concern, due to the sequester of 2013 which slashed government spending. Some estimates thought the proposed budget would be as low as $16.1 billion, making the proposed $17.65 billion a very welcomed surprise.
Here are some of the highlights from the budget:
Orion is a multi-purpose crew vehicle that can hold up to six astronauts and cargo and extend past low Earth orbit. Its function will be to take manned missions to the moon, to asteroids, and even to Mars. It currently has an unmanned test flight scheduled for September, and will not be used in a manned mission until 2020. Approximately $1.2 billion has been slated for this mission.
The James Webb Space Telescope will be able to peer at the light from the dawn of the Universe and is currently scheduled to launch in 2018. It will have four main targets: first light after reionization, formation of galaxies, birth of stars, and origins of life-harboring planetary systems. The project is a collaboration between NASA, ESA, and CSA. After the launch, the telescope will be controlled by the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, though astronomers all over the world will have access to the data it collects. In 2014, $8 billion will be invested into this program.
Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, is covered in an ice-encrusted ocean. It is considered one of the prime locations for potential life outside of Earth. A mission to send a spacecraft out to Jupiter’s orbit and have it perform multiple flybys of Europa has been proposed. The spacecraft would gather information about the chemical composition of the ice and ocean, along with physical characteristics. If it is deemed to be a plausible source of life, a future mission could land a spacecraft on the surface. Eighty million dollars have been earmarked for the pre-formulation and formulation of the mission.
In the absence of the Constellation Program and the Space Shuttle, the Space Launch System (SLS) has been devised to launch astronauts to destinations like the moon, asteroids, and Mars. If it sounds a lot like the Orion module, that’s because the programs are integrated and Orion will use SLS to launch. Upgrades over the next few years will make SLS the largest and heaviest vehicle ever created. Its first launch is scheduled for 2017. Approximately $1.9 billion will be invested this year into SLS.
Though NASA is a publicly funded government organization, it has begun to partner with private, commercial endeavors in what is called the Commercial Crew & Cargo Program Office (which abbreviates to C3PO... which is awesome). C3PO will aid select private missions in terms of grant money and sharing resources. The 2014 budget for this program has been increased from $500 million to $700 million. However, the bill stipulates that NASA administration must verify that the program has satisfactorily completed a cost-benefit analysis before the additional money will be awarded.
The large remainder of the balance will go toward existing science missions, grants, maintenance, education, and many other services provided by NASA. The proposed budget is about 0.004% of the entire United States federal budget for 2014. The bill will now be sent to the House, Senate, and President Barack Obama for approval.