The White House released the highlights of its budget proposal for NASA in 2022 last Friday (9). In general, this is just good news for the US space agency in this first year of the Biden administration.
The proposal, which has yet to be discussed and drafted in Congress, calls for a total of $ 24.7 billion for the agency, a 6.3% increase from the $ 233 billion allocated for 2021. So far, Trump has already proposed significant increases for NASA year after year. The main difference is the balance between the agency’s sectors.
There is no evidence of any new attempt to inflate the budget of the Artemis program, which includes a manned return to the moon, as has happened in the past. There’s only a modest 5% increase that will allocate $ 622 billion for manned exploration in 2022. This means that the goal of making the first moon landing with astronauts in 2024 can already be treated as a virtual impossibility.
However, the new management continues to support the program previously described as the program that would bring “the next man and woman” to the moon and which now involves “the first woman and the first person of color.”
If there are no bumps, there are no attempts to cancel a recap, as Trump has repeatedly tried (and prevented by Congress). The new proposal envisages an increase in geoscientific programs by 15% from 2 billion in 2021 to 2.3 billion in 2022. The resources, according to the White House summary, will be used to “examine urgent climate science issues for the next generation of Earth observation satellites”.
Resources have also been allocated to NASA’s educational programs and to the next major space telescope after James Webb, Nancy Grace Roman. Trump had tried several times to cancel both initiatives. Unmanned interplanetary missions, such as the one to study Europa (Jupiter’s moon) and the Mars sample return program are under consideration.
In general, it looks like a budget that will see fewer significant changes in Congress than in previous administrations, which gives two very important signs: continuity and balance.
It is the first time in six administrations (Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr., Obama, Trump and Biden) that a president does not appear to have reformist intentions in the manned space program. It’s early on, the new government is just getting started, but it’s a good sign and increases the chances that the return to the moon will become a reality in the years to come.
In yet another sign that he doesn’t want to shake the boat, Biden named Bill Nelson, a former Florida senator who was historically involved in the program (he flew on a space shuttle in 1986), as NASA’s next administrator. The Senate is expected to confirm on April 28th.
This column is published in Folha Corrida on Mondays.
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