Obama Administration Proposes $17.5B In NASA Funding For 2015
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
The White House has proposed a $17.5 billion budget for NASA that includes $848 million for the development of commercial vehicles to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), the Wall Street Journal and other media outlets reported Tuesday.
The amount scheduled to be set aside for a private-sector replacement of the defunct space shuttle program is approximately 40-percent above current outlays, according to WSJ.com’s Andy Pasztor. Furthermore, the US space agency is reportedly petitioning Congress for an additional $250 million supplement to those accounts in order to “ensure competition and keep companies on track to start ferrying astronauts in 2017,” he added.
The request is $185 million less than the enacted 2013 budget, but is being viewed by NASA officials as a “continuity-driven” plan which will allow the agency’s highest-priority programs (including the James Webb Space Telescope) to continue as planned, said Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post.
In a statement, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said that the funding request “keeps us on the same, steady path we have been following – a stepping stone approach to send humans to Mars in the 2030’s. It’s a path that has seen many recent successes, from the launch of the Global Precipitation Measurement mission last week… to returning space station resupply missions to US soil with private American companies.”
The Webb telescope, which is a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, is currently on track for a 2018 launch, Achenbach said. It features a folding, segmented 21-foot diameter mirror that will be adjusted to shape after it lifts off, and will use four scientific instruments designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum to study the birth and evolution of galaxies and the formation of planets and stars.
The proposed budget will allow for “the development of a new, heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System, and the Orion space capsule,” extend the life of the ISS until 2024, and allow the controversial Asteroid Redirect Mission to move forward. The Asteroid Redirect Mission involves the capture, relocation and analysis of a nearby planetoid, and while it is opposed by the GOP, the Obama administration has requested $133 million to help fund the program.
“This budget ensures that the United States will remain the world’s leader in space exploration and scientific discovery for years to come,” Bolden said, adding that the funding request would keep NASA “on target to launch American astronauts from right here in the USA by 2017, ending our reliance on others to get into space and freeing us up to carry out even more ambitious missions beyond low-Earth orbit.”
The NASA Administrator went on to say that the extension of the ISS funding “guarantees we’ll have this unique orbiting outpost for at least another decade” and “means an expanded market for private space companies, more ground-breaking research and science discovery in microgravity – and additional opportunities to live, work and learn in space over longer and longer periods of time.”
The SLS and Orion crew vehicle projects, the asteroid capture mission and the ISS research will also serve to advance the US space agency’s “stepping stone approach” to a possible manned mission to Mars, Bolden noted. Previously, President Obama has said that he believes that humans will be able to orbit the Red Planet and make it back to Earth by the mid-2030s, and that a manned Mars landing would follow.