Trump budget gives NASA in Alabama $3 billion for space missions

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Marshall Space Flight Center Director Jody Singer, left, and NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk brief reporters in Huntsville, Ala., on President Trump’s 2021 budget request for the space agency.

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NASA celebrated President Trump’s 2021 funding request to Congress Monday as it briefed news media nationwide and in Alabama.

Trump’s budget if adopted would give NASA a 12 percent increase to more than $25 billion next year, and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville would get almost $3 billion for missions including the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule. Center Director Jody Singer called it “one of the strongest budgets” in the agency’s history.

Marshall is also leading development of the new Moon lander for Trump’s plan to return American astronauts to the lunar surface in 2024, and the lander program received its own $3 billion budget in the president’s request. Congress still has to pass the budget, but it has supported the space program for the past five years with final spending levels at or above the White House proposal.

“This is a budget that demonstrates the administration’s support for NASA and the civil space program in the United States,” NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk said in Huntsville. “The budget has been steadily increasing over the last five years (and) this budget has the largest increase year to year….”

Singer said the budget gives Marshall “the resources we need to support our commitments” to the Space Launch System rocket, Orion crew capsule and lunar Human Landing System. She repeated the argument that SLS is important to the nation even with commercial rocket companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin working on their own big rockets.

“SLS provides an exploration capability that does not exist in the world today,” Singer said. “It can deliver greater mass and volume with greater departure energy than any vehicle system that exists today (and is) the only rocket built from the ground up to carry our astronauts farther and faster than any rocket in human history.”

The budget proposal is also good news for other Marshall programs like the International Space Station Payload Operations Center. NASA is committed to keeping the space station operating at least until 2030, and its science experiments are managed by the POC at Marshall.

Specifically, the budget includes $12.3 billion for what the administration now calls a “Moon-to-Mars campaign” that lands on the lunar surface as preparation to explore Mars and beyond. It also includes almost $4 billion for low-Earth orbit missions.

The Trump budget does put the brakes on NASA’s plans for upgrades of SLS so NASA can focus on “achieving successful early flights and establishing an annual flight cadence” for the big rocket. It also provides $6 billion for NASA science missions including $415 million to launch the James Webb Space Telescope in 2021.

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