Biden Requests 6.3 Percent Increase for NASA

Biden Requests 6.3 Percent Increase for NASA

President Biden is requesting a 6.3 percent increase for NASA in FY2022 compared to the level appropriated by Congress for FY2021. The $24.7 billion request, $1.5 billion more than FY2021, includes increases for the Artemis program, space technology research and development, earth science research, and STEM education.

The Biden budget request has been eagerly awaited as an indication of what his priorities are for space activities.  The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released some information today, but not full details.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) inspires the Nation by sending astronauts and robotic missions to explore the solar system, advancing understanding of the Earth and space, and developing new technologies and approaches to improve aviation and space activities. The 2022 discretionary request invests in developing new technologies to improve the Nation’s space and sustainable aviation capabilities; human and robotic exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond, including returning Martian rocks and soil to earth; and development of Earth-observing satellites that would produce breakthrough science and support the Nation’s efforts to address climate change. — Biden FY2022 Budget Request Summary

Of the $24.7 billion requested, this is what we know from the summary.

  • Artemis (human exploration): $6.9 billion, an increase of $325 million over FY2021 to support “the development of capabilities for sustainable, long duration human exploration beyond Earth, and eventually to Mars.”
  • Robotic Exploration: no dollar numbers, but specifically supports Mars Sample Return, Europa Clipper, Dragonfly, and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope.
  • Space Technology: $1.4 billion, an increase of $325 million over FY2021. “With this investment, the program would enhance the capabilities and reduce the costs of the full range of NASA missions and provide new technologies to help the commercial space industry grow. In addition, the discretionary request encourages novel early-stage space technology research that would support the development of clean energy.”
  • Aeronautics: $915 million, an increase of $86 million over FY2021 to “enhance U.S. competitiveness in the global aviation industry that employs hundreds of thousands of Americans. This increased funding would broaden and accelerate the testing of technologies that would enable highly efficient, next-generation airliners.”
  • Climate Science: $2.3 billion, an increase of $250 million over FY2021 “to initiate the next generation of Earth observing satellites to study pressing climate science questions”
  • STEM Education: an increase of $20 million (16 percent) “to expand initiatives to attract and retain underserved and underrepresented students in engineering and other STEM fields, in partnership with minority serving institutions and other higher education institutions.”
  • Research on ISS:  the request “provides more than $3 billion to operate the ISS and use it as a research laboratory in space. ISS funding would support space station operations, cargo and crew transportation, and research that benefits the exploration of space and life on Earth.”

Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk indicated two changes to the Artemis program in a statement. He made no mention of the 2024 deadline set by the Trump Administration to return astronauts to the lunar surface, only that the request keeps NASA “on the path” to a return to the Moon. Also, Artemis now will land not only the first woman on the Moon, but “the first person of color.”

“[The request keeps] NASA on the path to landing the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon under the Artemis program. This goal aligns with President Biden’s commitment to pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all. With NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, as well as U.S. commercial partnerships with the human landing system and Gateway lunar outpost, we will send astronauts to the Moon and provide learning opportunities for future missions.” — NASA

Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine lauded the Biden budget request and again called on the Senate to quickly confirm former Senator Bill Nelson to be his successor.

“I am extremely pleased to see that the Biden administration has increased funding for NASA in the FY2022 budget request. This budget continues the bipartisan Moon to Mars effort under the Artemis program. I urge the Senate to quickly confirm Senator Nelson so that he can assess and advocate for NASA requirements.” — Jim Bridenstine

Bridenstine was NASA Administrator on March 26, 2019 when then-Vice President Pence tasked the agency to put “the first woman and the next man” on the Moon by 2024, just 5 years away. He made it his mission to build bipartisan support for Artemis that would endure after he left at the end of the Trump Administration and appears to have been successful. While 2024 may no longer be the timeframe, few thought it was realistic in any case for budgetary and technical reasons. Bridenstine’s emphasis was creating a sustainable lunar exploration and utilization program incorporating commercial and international partnerships. OMB’s statement says sustainable and NASA’s refers to the commercial partnerships for Human Landing Systems and the Gateway. The Gateway is designed with contributions from Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency.

Today’s release of the FY2022 request is just the first step in the FY2022 budget process, but certainly is welcome news for the NASA community.

With the request in hand, Congress can begin work on FY2022 appropriations in earnest.  Time will tell if it agrees with Biden. With Democrats in control of both the House and Senate, the process theoretically could be smoother than in the recent past, but with the margins so close and the political atmosphere so tense, it is difficult to gauge what lies ahead.

Last year, President Trump requested a 12 percent increase for NASA, but Congress provided much less on a bipartisan basis. In particular, it cut funding for the Human Landing Systems (HLS) needed to return astronauts to the lunar surface. Trump requested $25.2 billion while Congress appropriated $23.3 billion, of which $850 million is for HLS, just 25 percent of the $3.4 billion requested.

Part of the reason was that Trump had also proposed terminating space science and education programs he knew were congressional priorities, like the Roman Space Telescope, earth science programs, and NASA’s entire STEM education office. Congress added back money to pay for them, compensating by cutting other requested funding.

Biden is funding those programs. Still, Congress must deal with the FY2022 budget amid a rapidly growing budget deficit, so it is far too early to bank on NASA getting the requested amounts, but at least the request indicates that Biden’s enthusiasm for NASA is not just rhetoric.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), who chairs the space subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee that oversees NASA, praised the request, especially for earth science, space science, and aeronautics, calling earth science one of his top priorities for NASA. He also cheered the “strong support for the Mars Sample Return mission and increased funding for the Artemis program” as “welcome news that I hope will draw bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.” 

“The Biden-Harris Administration is also reaffirming its commitment to inclusiveness and diversity in the space program, with increased funding for the Office of STEM Engagement, and with NASA’s just-announced historic commitment to land the first person of color on the Moon.

“I look forward to continuing to review the budget proposal and to working with the Administration and my colleagues in Congress on robust funding for NASA to enhance American leadership in space exploration, research and development, and innovation.”  Rep. Don Beyer

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation also signaled support not only for the budget request, but the Biden Administration’s decision to retain the National Space Council and to nominate Nelson as NASA Administrator. All indicate the Administration’s “early support for an ambitious national space program” and the commercial space industry will work closely with them.


Note: This article has been updated.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.