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Trump’s NASA Request Monday Will Challenge Congress

Feb. 9, 2020 (EIRNS)—According to several media sources briefed by the White House, President Trump is going to challenge Congress Monday morning with a Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposal which includes a 12% increase in the NASA budget, from $22.6 billion (FY2021 estimated, still to be finally appropriated by Congress) to $26.3 billion.

According to Wall Street Journal sources, this means that the White House will request $3.3 billion more for human (specifically lunar) exploration, with about $3 billion more for the lunar lander development alone (in FY2020 NASA requested $1.2 billion for the lander). Moreover, it will do this without requesting cuts in space science programs, on the principle stated by Administrator Jim Bridenstine that such “shifting money” to human exploration does not work politically or in terms of science and technology.

When Trump entered office the NASA budget had been stuck at roughly $18 billion for a number of years; so he is seeking to raise it by 45% during his first term. Congress was pushed to make increases in his first three years, but the Democrats dug in on rejecting the President’s 2024 goal to land the first woman and next man on the Moon, and many have continued to promote a basically flat NASA budget until later this decade. Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK)—who had at one time managed government affairs for the Space Foundation, and whom the Democratic House Caucus made chair of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Science Committee in her very first year in Congress—advanced an authorization bill which does just that, puts off even a lunar crewed orbit to 2028, and rules against development of lunar resources or creation of a settlement of human industry there.

The increase the President is now proposing is, in fact, very small compared to increases in some other agencies this year, especially in military expenditures.

Moreover, the level he is requesting is not a ceiling but a floor for FY2021, because even with it, the funding for the Moon-Mars mission will have to increase sharply again after that year in order to keep the goal in sight for humans to land on the Moon in 2024, and develop a settlement by 2028.

The Journal quoted a White House spokesman saying, “Space exploration will reinvigorate the landscape of American science,” and eventually will result in a human mission to Mars.

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