Welcome to this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief… with the recent release of the U.S. government’s proposed budget for 2023, we’ll be turning our attention toward 1) President Biden’s budget, and what it would do for NASA, 2) a breakdown of the main areas NASA’s portion of the budget will focus on, 3) how the budget will bolster the Artemis program, and 4) what NASA leadership has said in response to the budget proposal.
Quote of the Week
“If you compare NASA’s annual budget to explore the heavens, that one year budget would fund NOAA’s budget to explore the oceans for 1,600 years.”
Before we get into the thick of things, a few stories we’re covering this week at The Debrief include our ongoing coverage of Russia’s full-scale military invasion of neighboring Ukraine. Elsewhere, Boeing and the RAAF have officially announced the naming of their latest AI-controlled air combat drone, the MQ-28A Ghost Bat. Meanwhile, Brad Kurtz Ph.D, J.D., gives us a take on the controversial, but not implausible evidence behind the theory of panspermia. Could simple forms of life really survive in outer space?
The White House Reveals its Budget for 2023
In recent days, the White House released its Budget of the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2023, outlining the funding allocation for various programs and others areas in government for the coming year.
“My Budget details the next steps forward on our journey to execute a new economic vision,” read a portion of President Biden’s opening statement in the document. “It is a Budget anchored in my bedrock belief that America is at its best when we invest in the backbone of our Nation: the hardworking people in every community who make our Nation run.”
From the economy, education, and infrastructure to defense and security, the budget request issued on Monday presents the President’s vision for funding vital areas in government for fiscal year 2023, which includes the National Space and Aeronautics Administration and its ambitious plans to further human activities in space by returning to the Moon, and eventually put humans on Mars.
Among the additions—and omissions—to the 2023 budget are also several elements that will potentially shape the path of several of NASA’s missions going forward in the years ahead.
A Look at NASA’s 2023 Budget
In the President’s budget request for the American space agency, NASA is slated to receive a sum of $26 billion, exceeding its total budget for the current year by $2 billion.
Among the objectives central to NASA’s 2023 budget are areas that will aim to enhance the U.S. and NASA’s leadership in human spaceflight, as well as advancing the space agency’s role in fighting climate change, robotic space exploration, and research and development.
The development of commercial space stations is also a primary focus of NASA’s 2023 budget. Earlier this year, the space agency presented updated plans for decommissioning the International Space Station (ISS), with the aim of moving toward the construction of one or more space stations by NASA’s commercial partners.
President Biden’s budget also focuses on NASA’s participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs.
“The President’s fiscal year 2023 budget would allow NASA to sustain America’s global innovation leadership and keep NASA at the forefront of exploration and discovery by returning to the Moon with the Artemis program, among other efforts,” read a NASA statement following the budget’s release by the White House. “This budget would enable NASA to address climate change, drive economic growth, and promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.”
However, notably absent from the budget request published this week is any funding for NASA’s mobile observatory, the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), which was recently deployed to Chile for a two-week mission. Space.com reported this week that NASA was advised against renewing the program back in November, which costs around $85 million annually.
Artemis Receives a Lion’s Share
Significantly, around one-third of the President’s budget is allocated to NASA’s pioneering Artemis program, which in addition to sending humans back to the lunar surface with a focus on exploring the Moon’s south pole, will also send the first woman and the first person of color to visit Earth’s natural satellite.
With a budget of $7.5 billion reserved for Artemis, NASA will have the necessary funding to develop an innovative new lunar lander planned for the mission. NASA initially chose SpaceX to lead in the effort of constructing its crewed lander back in April 2021, although last week the space agency announced plans to eventually have several different private spacecraft operating to carry humans to and from the Moon.
The decision followed a minor controversy involving a bid protest filed by Blue Origin, which was denied by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims last November. The space agency said the decision upheld “NASA’s selection of SpaceX to develop and demonstrate a modern human lunar lander,” and announced their intent to “resume work with SpaceX under the Option A contract as soon as possible.”
A Moon Mission with Many Landers
“In addition to this contract, NASA continues working with multiple American companies to bolster competition and commercial readiness for crewed transportation to the lunar surface,” read a NASA statement on last November’s court decision. “There will be forthcoming opportunities for companies to partner with NASA in establishing a long-term human presence at the Moon under the agency’s Artemis program, including a call in 2022 to U.S. industry for recurring crewed lunar landing services.”
Human Landing System Program manager Lisa Watson-Morgan at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center said NASA’s multi-lander strategy “expedites progress toward a long-term, sustaining lander capability as early as the 2026 or 2027 timeframe.”
“We expect to have two companies safely carry astronauts in their landers to the surface of the Moon under NASA’s guidance before we ask for services,” Watson which could result in multiple experienced providers in the market.”
Given the funding allocated to NASA in Biden’s 2023 budget, it seems that the space agency will now be well on its way toward bringing its multi-lander visions for Artemis to fruition. This, in addition to the many other goals NASA has set for the years and decades ahead; all of which play a vital role in NASA’s place within the U.S. federal government both as a center for innovation and leadership, but also in providing a foundation for working Americans through its efforts.
“This budget reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s confidence in the extraordinary workforce that makes NASA the best place to work in the federal government,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
“It’s an investment in the businesses and universities that partner with NASA in all 50 states and the good-paying jobs they are creating. It’s a signal of support for our missions in a new era of exploration and discovery.”
Additional information about NASA’s budget, along with its strategic plans and other documentation can be found on the agency’s budget page online.
That wraps up this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief. You can read past editions of The Intelligence Brief at our website, or if you found this installment online, don’t forget to subscribe and get future email editions from us here. Also, if you have a tip or other information you’d like to send along directly to me, you can email me at micah [@] thedebrief [dot] org, or Tweet at me @MicahHanks.
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