President Joe Biden is demanding a whopping $26 billion for NASA for 2023, Nearly $2 billion more from the space agency received for the current fiscal year, According to newly released budget documents from the White House. If enacted as is, a third of that budget would go to NASA’s Artemis program — the agency’s ambitious initiative to return humans to the Moon.
Nearly $7.5 billion has been allocated to Artemis, which aims to send the first woman and first people of color to the Moon as early as 2025. Part of this funding will go towards developing a new lunar lander capable of transporting humans to and from the lunar surface – A recent addition to the Artemis Master Plan.
To return humans to the Moon, NASA is working on three major pieces of hardware. The first two include a massive rocket called the Space Launch System, or SLS, and a crew capsule called Orion. The pair have been in development for the past decade and are determined to work together to take humans to the lunar ocean. The third important component required to complete the flight is a lunar lander. Last year, NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to develop the company’s new Starship craft into an Artemis lander.
However, just last week, NASA announced plans to partner with another commercial company to develop a Secondly Moon landing craft. The agency originally wanted to choose two companies to build human landing systems for Artemis but had to choose only one After receiving a small portion of the funding requested by Congress. NASA is now asking for money for the second moon it wanted right from the start. About $1.486 billion has been earmarked for human landing systems, according to NASA budget documents, although the documents did not specify funding for individual landers.
Meanwhile, $779 million has been allocated to develop NASA’s Lunar Gateway, a new space station the agency hopes to build in lunar orbit. Ultimately, the portal is supposed to serve as a hub for the Artemis program where astronauts can live and train before landing on the moon. The first piece of the portal is supposed to be released in 2024 at the earliest.
Besides hardware for human missions, the new budget request calls for an additional $486 million to fund robotic missions to the Moon to help better understand the topography of the Moon. One such mission involves the VIPER rover “to examine icy sediments that could provide fuel and oxygen to astronauts in the future.” Some of that funding will also go toward NASA’s well-established partnerships with private companies like Intuitive Machines and Astrobotic, which are sending robotic landers to the Moon early this year.
Apart from Artemis, the White House has allocated $224 million to encourage the development of new commercial space stations in low Earth orbit, where the International Space Station is currently located. At the end of last year, the Biden administration announced plans to continue operations of the International Space Station through 2030. But that program will eventually end, and the agency wants private space stations to be ready as alternative destinations for astronauts when that time comes.
Complicating matters further, Russia only agreed to keep the International Space Station operating until 2024. The age of the International Space Station after that date has also been called into question recently, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine continuing. After the United States imposed sanctions on Russia for the invasion, the head of Russia’s space program made hostile threats about the possible termination of the country’s partnership in the International Space Station program. Since the space station is designed to be jointly operated by both Russia and the United States, the country’s departure after 2024 will likely lead to an early end to the International Space Station. While NASA started an operation Partnership with three private companies to develop space stationsThese projects are likely several years away from readiness.
Also within this budget, nearly $8 billion is allocated to science, with $2.4 billion going to Earth sciences and the study of climate change with satellites in orbit around the planet. The White House is calling for a new Earth System Observatory with new satellite missions to be funded, providing “a comprehensive, three-dimensional view of the Earth necessary to better understand natural hazards and climate change.” NASA is also tasked with strengthening its monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions and sharing that data with other agencies.
Meanwhile, $822 million has been allocated to NASA to work on recovering samples from Mars. Last year, the agency successfully landed its persistent rover on the Red Planet, a robot designed to collect samples of Martian terrain and leave them on the planet’s surface. Now, NASA is working with Lockheed Martin and the European Space Agency to develop a set of vehicles that can return those samples to Earth so that scientists can study them in more detail and understand whether Mars once hosted life.
NASA has included budget request details for its individual programs, which you can read here.
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