House Appropriators Propose Bigger Boost for NASA Than Biden

House Appropriators Propose Bigger Boost for NASA Than Biden

The House Appropriations Committee released the draft of its FY2022 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill this afternoon. It proposes $25.04 billion for NASA, $1.77 billion more than FY2021 and about $240 million more than President Biden’s request of $24.80 billion. How much of that increase, if any, is for the Artemis Human Landing System remains unclear, though. Subcommittee markup tomorrow and full committee markup on Thursday may provide some answers.

The draft bill was released today, but not the accompanying report that provides details and explanations of the committee’s decisions. This summary from a committee press release offers an overview.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – $25.04 billion, $1.77 billion above the FY 2021 enacted level. This funding includes continued investments in human space exploration efforts, as well as other investments, including the following:

  • $935 million for Aeronautics research, an increase of $106.3 million above the FY 2021 enacted level and $20.2 million above the President’s budget request, to continue efforts to improve passenger safety, fuel efficiency, and noise reduction, and to make air travel more environmentally sustainable.
  • $7.97 billion for Science, an increase of $668.5 million above FY 2021, to continue efforts to explore the solar system, other planets, and other solar systems, including through space telescopes and planetary satellites and rovers, as well as efforts to gain scientific knowledge about the Earth’s changing climate.
  • $7.28 billion for Exploration, an increase of $723.9 million above FY 2021, to continue human space exploration efforts, including eventually landing the first American woman and person of color on the surface of the Moon.
  • $147 million for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Engagement, an increase of $20 million above the FY 2021 enacted level, to inspire young people to pursue future careers in science and engineering.

Compared to the President’s FY2022 request, the Exploration, Science and Aeronautics accounts get boosts, a total of about $458 million. Space Technology, Space Operations, and Safety, Security and Mission Services get cuts, a total of about $220 million.

The increase for Exploration is $400 million over the President’s request. The bulk of that is for the Space Launch System ($148.9 million) and the Exploration Ground Systems associated with SLS and Orion ($100 million). The bill includes language reasserting Congress’ interest in getting SLS Block 1B with its Exploration Upper Stage and a second Mobile Launch Platform ready for launch in 2025.

The Exploration R&D budget, which funds the Human Landing System (HLS), would get a $150 million increase over the request, but it is not clear how much of it is intended for HLS, the hottest topic in the NASA budget right now. That budget line item also funds the Gateway, Advanced Cislunar and Surface Capabilities, Advanced Exploration Systems, and the Human Research Program. Considering that the committee’s press release refers to landing people back on the Moon “eventually,” it does not appear the committee has bought into the 2024 landing date. Tomorrow’s subcommittee markup could provide more clues.

The committee proposes $935 million for Aeronautics, $20 million above Biden’s request.

The Science budget would get $38 million more than Biden proposed: $7,969.5 million instead of $7,031.4 million. Earth science would get the same as the request, while planetary science and astrophysics would get small increases ($34.8 million and $46 million respectively). Heliophysics and biological and physical sciences would get slight cuts ($23.7 million and $19 million respectively) from the request.

Space Technology gets the deepest cut compared to the President’s request, $145 million ($1,280 million versus $1,425 million). The draft bill specifies that $110 million of the $1,280 million is for nuclear thermal propulsion, about the same amount it allocates every year recently, but since NASA requested zero, the space technology portfolio would have to absorb it and defer or cancel other planned activities.

Space Operations is down $56.1 million in the committee’s draft compared to Biden’s request. Safety, Security and Mission Services would get $19 million less than the request.

STEM Engagement is funded at the same level as requested: $147 million.

The bill is a draft and this is just the opening step on the long road to congressional appropriations. Amendments are possible tomorrow, though typically the big debates take place during full committee markups rather than at the subcommittee level. The goal is to get all 12 FY2022 appropriations bills passed by the House before the end of the month. Although the Senate has not weighed in yet, NASA will have at least one data point to begin shaping its expectations.

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