The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (Coalition) welcomes the release of the full President’s Budget Request for NASA for Fiscal Year 2018, which builds on the information first released in March highlighting funding requests for NASA’s exploration, science and space operations programs. The budget requests $19.092 billion for NASA overall – a little more than $560 million below the FY 2017 Omnibus level that was signed into law earlier this month – but a significant increase above the prior Administration’s final request for NASA in FY 2017.
“The Coalition is encouraged by the relatively strong funding levels for key exploration, human spaceflight and science programs across the agency, especially compared to requested levels for other non-defense agencies in FY 2018,” said Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Director of the Coalition. “Although overall funding levels are lower than the FY 2017 Omnibus levels, the Coalition recognizes that much of the planning for the FY 2018 President’s Budget Request was completed prior to the negotiation and passage of the final Omnibus earlier this month. We are optimistic that the Administration and Congress will work together using the higher FY 2017 Omnibus levels as the basis for the development of the FY 2018 appropriations bill for NASA.”
The Coalition appreciates the funding requested for NASA’s key exploration programs, including its next generation deep space rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), crewed spacecraft, Orion, and associated Exploration Ground Systems, as well as for key exploration mission capabilities funded under the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) account. AES is developing technologies for deep space habitation via NASA’s NextSTEP program, as well as deep space propulsion, lunar lander capabilities and other systems that will enable robust Exploration Missions. Some of these technologies – notably those leading to a habitat, together with a propulsion module – are components of NASA’s planned Deep Space Gateway.
“The Deep Space Gateway and other systems intended for the area around the moon are part of a large-scale, in-space infrastructure that will open space to exploration and development,” Dittmar said. “This superhighway to space begins with SLS, Orion and Exploration Ground Systems. Taken together, all of these programs will return NASA astronauts to deep space for the first time in nearly 50 years and will enable a range of compelling missions to strengthen America’s leadership in space.”
The Coalition also applauds the requested funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, Mars 2020 and Europa mission, as well as a range of important astrophysics, heliophysics and other space science programs. As the only country in the world to visit every planet in the solar system, as well as to deploy the unique telescopes capable of detecting exoplanets and understand the formation of our universe, the United States must continue to invest in these groundbreaking science programs. We continue to support funding for the International Space Station (ISS), which is America’s testbed platform for exploration research – including long-duration crewed mission and life support systems necessary to support such deep space missions – as well as the cargo and crew transportation necessary to support the ISS.
We note with concern the flat out-year spending levels in this budget for most NASA programs, as well as the elimination of NASA’s education office. It is imperative that NASA’s topline and key program areas continue to grow, at or above the rate of inflation, to ensure no net decrease in the agency’s resources to continue America’s leadership in space. Similarly, NASA’s education efforts have engaged hundreds of thousands of students over the years, drawing students into careers in STEM that contribute to American security and global competitiveness.