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NASA to Get $25.4 Billion in 2023 Federal Budget

NASA’s budget, part of a $1.7 trillion government spending bill that still needs to be voted on by Congress, is 5.6 percent more than last year's budget. It falls short of the $26 billion requested by the White House.

The NASA logo on the side of a building.
(TNS) — NASA is set to receive $25.4 billion in the new federal budget that lawmakers unveiled early Tuesday morning.

The NASA budget, part of a $1.7 trillion government-wide spending bill that still needs to be voted on by Congress, is 5.6 percent more than last year's enacted $24 billion budget. It falls short of the nearly $26 billion requested by the White House.

"I'm very pleased to see this agreement," said Casey Dreier, senior space policy adviser for the Planetary Society, a nonprofit that seeks to get more people engaged with space.

IMAGES: Stunning NASA images from Artemis mission recap Orion's mission

But Dreier cautioned that rising prices will take a bite out of that increase.

"In our current inflation environment," he said, "it's likely that this year's growth won't go far enough to maintain the space agency's purchasing power."

The fiscal year 2023 spending bill includes funding for a wide variety of NASA priorities, which range from returning humans to the moon to using satellites to monitor climate change to developing electric planes. Congress hopes to pass the spending bill this week to avoid a partial government shutdown, which will begin Saturday if the bill isn't signed into law.

Of note for the Artemis Program, through which NASA is seeking to land the first woman and person of color on the moon in 2025, the budget provides $1.5 billion to support the human landing system being developed by SpaceX and to back the development of competitors. These systems are essential because NASA's Orion spacecraft cannot land on the moon; astronauts must transfer from Orion to a human landing system that will take them to the surface. NASA selected the SpaceX Starship as the human landing system for its mission in 2025 — the spacecraft is still being developed — and it's planning to select a system designed by another company (or partnership between multiple companies) for later missions.

For low- Earth orbit, where the International Space Station resides, Congress has provided $224.3 million for NASA's commercialization efforts. This is mainly to support companies that are developing commercial space stations to replace the government-run International Space Station, which is expected to be operational through 2030.

Lawmakers showed support for NASA's public-private partnerships by fully funding the White House request for the human landing system and commercial space stations. But the budget does include a sentence highlighting the hesitancy some lawmakers feel about NASA not owning and operating complex systems.

"As the relationship between NASA and its commercial partners deepens, NASA should seek to retain ownership of technologies, scientific data and discoveries made using public funds," according to an explanatory statement for NASA's budget.

Earth science is a top priority for President Joe Biden, and the budget provides $2.2 billion (6 percent more than last year's funding) to address climate research priorities. An additional $935 million is provided for aeronautics, which includes improving airplane fuel efficiency and conducting research and development for electric propulsion.

Then there is $3.2 billion provided for planetary science. Roughly a quarter of this, $822 million, is for the Mars Sample Return mission where NASA and the European Space Agency are partnering to bring Martian rocks back to Earth in the early to mid 2030s. Dreier said this program is at a crucial stage of development, and Congress is providing a level of funding greater than what NASA's entire Heliophysics division is receiving to study the sun ($805 million).

" Congress is willing to fund ambitious exploration missions," Dreier said. "Those are the projects that got the funding they needed."

Lawmakers also recognized the importance of the Near-Earth Object Surveyor, a space telescope that would help NASA discover potentially hazardous asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles of Earth's orbit. The White House budget had requested $40 million — down from NASA's planned 2023 budget of $174.2 million — but Congress allocated $90 million for this planetary science mission.

© 2022 the Houston Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.