Published: Fri, March 10, 2017
Science | By Boyd Webster

Congress Just Passed NASA's $19.5 Billion Budget

Congress Just Passed NASA's $19.5 Billion Budget

NASA's going to infinity and beyond - specifically, to Mars.

On Wednesday, the House followed the Senate's lead by passing the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, which appropriates $19.5 billion in spending for fiscal year 2017 for exploration, space operations, science, technology, education and more.

On Wednesday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who originally introduced the bill, said, "the future of the USA space program is now more secure and stable, and we have provided much-needed certainty to the missions of the International Space Station and Johnson Space Center". Perhaps the most exciting bit to come out of NASA's 2017 budget is the fact Congress wants to send a human to Mars by 2039.

HollywoodLifers, do you think we'll see astronauts on Mars?

NASA will also consider possible interim destinations like the Martian moons.

That report likely would clarify NASA's next steps, whether it be the agency's intended but sharply-criticized plan to visit and perhaps retrieve an asteroid from deep space, or to return to the moon. The bill specifies that expanding "permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit" should be the first of the agency's long-term goals.

Furthermore, in one of his statements reported by Space News, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), who happens to be the chairman of the House space subcommittee, said that the bipartisan and bicameral bill grew to maturity through many long and serious discussions about the future of our nation's space program.

The bill is almost identical to the one that already cleared the Senate last month, and will now go to President Donald Trump to be signed. It would offer a slight increase over the $19 billion NASA operated under past year.

At least for now, NASA's Earth Science division is left intact, but it is not clear whether Trump will sign the bill or not.

S.422 is by no means a ideal bill despite its broad support, according to science committee member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas. Rep. Johnson is a ranking member of the House Science Committee. Trump could veto it, but is expected to sign as he's previously alluded to support for a manned mission to Mars.

Trump has expressed support for a crewed exploration of Mars, mentioning during his inauguration speech that he is "ready to unlock the mysteries of space".

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