House Appropriators Recommend Boost for NASA in FY2023, But Not as Much as Requested

House Appropriators Recommend Boost for NASA in FY2023, But Not as Much as Requested

The House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA is recommending $25.45 billion for the agency in FY2023. While a substantial increase over current funding of $24.04 billion, the total is half a billion less than the $25.97 billion President Biden requested.

The Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee draft bill and summary released tonight provide only top-level information on the subcommittee’s recommendations and they could change during subcommittee and full committee markups, but it’s a good indication of what’s to come from the House.

Excerpt from House Appropriations Committee’s press release on the draft Commerce-Justice-Science FY2023 appropriations bill, June 21, 2022.

The bill spells out funding levels for NASA’s major funding accounts and a few specific programs, but most details will be forthcoming in the explanatory report.

  • Science: $7,905 million ($7,988 million was requested)
  • Aeronautics: $950 million ($971.5 million was requested)
  • Space Technology: $1,250 million ($1,438 million was requested)
    • $227 million for RESTORE-L/SPIDER (same as the request, which NASA calls OSAM-1)
    • $110 million for nuclear thermal propulsion, of which $80 million is for design of a flight demonstration system (request was $15 million for nuclear thermal and nuclear electric propulsion)
  • Deep Space Exploration Systems: $7,324 million ($7,478 million was requested)
    • $1,339 million for Orion (same as request)
    • $2,600 million for SLS, of which $600 million is for Block 1B including EUS (request was $2,580 million)
    • $750 million for Exploration Ground Systems (same as request) including up to $232 million for Mobile Launcher 2
  • Space Operations: $4,256 million ($4,266 million was requested)
  • STEM Engagement: $150 million (same as request)
    • $26 million for EPSCoR (same as request)
    • $62 million for Space Grant ($57 million was requested)
  • Safety, Security and Mission Services: $3,139 million ($3,209 million was requested)
  • Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration: $424.3 million (same as request)
  • Inspector General: $48.4 million (same as request)

The CJS subcommittee will mark up the bill tomorrow evening. Full committee markup is scheduled for June 28.

As welcome as a $1.4 billion increase would be, it likely is not enough for NASA to execute its ambitious portfolio of space technology, aeronautics, science and human exploration missions on their current schedules. That includes the Artemis program to put astronauts back on the Moon, which already has slipped from 2024 to 2025 and many are skeptical that date is achievable. The agency also has several multi-billion dollar science missions in development including the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, the Mars Sample Return mission to bring back samples that are being collected by the Perseverance rover right now, and the Roman Space Telescope.

The House markup is only the first step in the lengthy appropriations process so is far from the final word. NASA has broad bipartisan support in Congress, but it all boils down to priorities and it may well be that NASA has to terminate or delay more programs. The FY2023 request already calls for cancelling the International Mars Ice Mapper mission and delaying Near Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor, among others. The Planetary Society and the National Space Society have joined forces to advocate for restoring NEO Surveyor, a space telescope dedicated to detecting asteroids that could imperil Earth. The material released by the committee today doesn’t indicate if their appeal was successful.

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