Space.com is reporting that NASA will be getting more than asked for in the recently passed appropriations bill, which is at least one bright spot.
WASHINGTON — A long-overdue fiscal year 2017 spending bill unveiled early May 1 will provide NASA with $19.65 billion, more than $600 million above the original request for the agency by the previous administration.
The omnibus spending bill, released by congressional appropriators after extended negotiations, provides more money overall for the agency than earlier House and Senate bills, including significant increases for exploration programs and planetary science. It also funds programs that the Trump administration seeks to cancel or restructure in its 2018 budget proposal.
The $19.653 billion NASA receives in the bill is $628 million above the original request for the agency in the Obama administration's final budget request in February 2016. It is $368 million above the $19.285 billion NASA received in fiscal year 2016.
The biggest winner in the spending bill is NASA's exploration program, which gets $4.32 billion, nearly $1 billion more than the original request but similar to what the House and Senate offered in their bills last year. That total includes $2.15 billion for the Space Launch System and $1.35 billion for Orion. [NASA and Trump: The 1st 100 Day (Video)]
The report accompanying the spending bill allows NASA to use exploration funding to support technologies such as advanced proposal, asteroid deflection and grappling systems intended for use on the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), provided they "not distract from the overarching goal of sending humans to Mars." The Trump administration's fiscal year 2018 budget blueprint, released March 16, announced plans to cancel ARM.
Science programs will receive $5.76 billion in the spending bill, above both the requested $5.6 billion and lower levels in the House and Senate bills. Planetary science wins a large increase, to nearly $1.85 billion, well above the 2017 request of $1.52 billion and the $1.63 billion it received in 2016. That total includes $408 million for the Mars 2020 rover mission, including language directing NASA to add a small helicopter technology demonstration to the mission as long as it does not delay the mission's launch.
Also, while not decreasing the inward looking Earth science program, it wasn't increased which is a bad sign for the program, but a great sign for NASA overall if you believe they need to be looking outward.
NASA's Earth science program, the subject of potential cuts, received $1.92 billion, the same as it received in 2016 but less than the $2.03 billion sought by the Obama administration. That funding includes $90 million for Pre-Aerosol, Clouds, and Ocean Ecosystem, or PACE, mission, which the Trump administration targeted for cancellation in its 2018 budget blueprint.