Good news future Mars explorers! NASA's budget for next year passed through the Republican-led Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee last Wednesday, after being approved by the House of Representatives earlier this year.
The budget will now have to be voted by the whole Senate and then signed into law by President Obama. If the $19.5-billion budget for 2017 is approved in full, it will be a crucial stepping stone on our way to Mars.
In the bill's text, approved by the committee, there is a considerable slice to be used for the Orion module and the Space Launch System, which are the capsule and the rocket that will in the next 25 years take a crew to the Red Planet.
“Fifty-five years after President Kennedy challenged the nation to put a man on the moon, the Senate is challenging NASA to put humans on Mars. The priorities that we’ve laid out for NASA in this bill mark the beginning of a new era of American spaceflight,” Democratic Senator Bill Nelson said in a statement from the committee.
There were worries that the whole US science budget would be frozen and used in the latest political machinations, so it’s great to see a bipartisan consensus on the importance of NASA’s work. This is pretty crucial in an election year.
“We have seen in the past the importance of stability and predictability in NASA and space exploration – that whenever one has a change in administration, we have seen the chaos that can be caused by the cancellation of major programs,” said Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who chaired the Science, Space and Competitiveness Subcommittee.
“NASA is at a crossroads, and this committee is acting, and I hope the full Congress will act, to ensure stability and predictability going forward.”
Mars is only one part of the budget. The bill also includes provisions to continue the robotic exploration of the Solar System, monitoring Earth’s climate and weather, the launch of new space observatories, and also maintaining the low-Earth orbit work done on the International Space Station.