NASA’s budget for 2016 is getting a boost. The budget proposal calls for the space agency to get $18.5 billion in fiscal year 2016, up from $18 billion in 2015.
Here’s 4 facts you need to know about NASA’s plans now and in the future.
NASA is Set on Mars
“NASA is firmly on a journey to Mars,” NASA chief Charles Bolden said in his State of NASA address. “Make no mistake, this journey will help guide and define our generation.”
During his address, Bolden talked about the “tangible examples” of progress NASA is making towards a manned mission to Mars. The Orion spacecraft is one of these ‘examples.’ Orion recently conducted a successful test flight into space. Soon, NASA will place the Orion spacecraft aboard its Space Launch System rocket (SLS), its newest propulsion system.
NASA will also test its Low Density Supersonic Decelerator again this summer. This technology will be critical for successfully landing large payloads on Mars.
“So as I stand before you today, in front of these very tangible examples of our progress and our future, I can unequivocally say that the State of NASA is strong,” Bolden said in his speech.
A manned mission to Mars is NASA’s ultimate goal. But, there’s still a long ways to go. The first humans on Mars won’t touch down until sometime after 2030.
Europa, Asteroids, Telescopes and Satellites
Part of the $18.5 billion request includes developing a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. Another chunk will go towards NASA’s asteroid redirect mission (ARM). What NASA learns on the asteroid redirect mission will directly help planned missions to Mars.
$620 million of the budget will go to the development of the James Webb Space Telescope. The successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is expected to launch in 2018.
NASA will also develop the next series of Landsat satellites. These Earth-gazing satellites monitor our climate, watch for planet deforestation and more.
Continued Support for Boeing and SpaceX Initiatives
The 2016 budget will continue support of the Commercial Crew Program. NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX to create systems that would get U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station. $1.2 billion will go to making sure this becomes a reality.
Boeing and SpaceX are expected to be ready to start ferrying astronauts by 2017. NASA will no longer be dependent on Russia to get astronauts to and from the International Space Station. With the political relationship souring between the two countries, Boeing and SpaceX can’t get done fast enough.
The Chopping Block
2016’s budget comes with sacrifices. The planned budget would end Opportunity’s mission on Mars. The rover has been having issues recently such as problems with its flash memory.
There’s still some hope for Opportunity though. NASA officials will reevaluate Opportunity over the next year to see if it makes sense to keep it operational. The rover’s mission was expected to end in fiscal year 2015, but NASA found the money to keep it going. We will see if this happens again.
The same goes for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The 2016 budget would see this mission end also. Unless, additional funding can be secured. It’s happened before. LRO’s mission was slated to end last year, but NASA kept it going.
NASA’s planned 2016 budget isn’t set in stone. Congress still has to pass it. Usually that isn’t a problem, but you never know these days.