.(An astronaut in space flashes a thumbs-up sign.NASA/ESA)
p>For the first time in more than six years, both chambers of Congress passed a bill that approves funding for NASA & gives the space agency new mandates.
The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 is a bill that the Senate & House collaborated on for months, & it appropriates $19.5 billion to the agency. (NASA received $19.3 billion in 2016, or 0.5% of the total federal budget.)
When the Senate brought the bill before the House of Representatives for a vote on March 7, “no members spoke against the bill” & it passed, according to Jeff Foust at Space News.
The document asks NASA to create a roadmap for getting humans “near or on the surface of Mars in the 2030s.” It moreover calls on the space agency to continue developing the Space Launch System (SLS) — a behemoth rocket — & the Orion space capsule in order to eventually go to the moon, Mars, & beyond.
.(An illustration of the Space Launch System taking off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center) Now it’s up to President Trump to sign the bill into law — or veto it.
Business Insider did not immediately receive a response from Trump administration officials approximately the president’s plans for the new bill.
But its passage seems likely.
Trump has expressed support for a crewed exploration of Mars, & in his inauguration speech he said he’s “ready to unlock the mysteries of space.” Administration officials, meanwhile, have said they want NASA to return to the moon in the 2020s yet moreover proposed to end the space agency’s 58-year mandate to study the Earth & its climate, details the bill leaves out.
Trump moreover maintains a relatively tight collaboration with the Republican-controlled legislative branch.
What’s in NASA’s proposed budget?
The American Astronomical Society has a convenient breakdown of the $19.5 billion in the bill, including funding for human space exploration, space-station operations, science, & more.
Here are some notable titles, articles, & sections of the 146-page document:
“Assuring Core Capabilities For Exploration” — calls for several missions: an uncrewed launch of SLS & Orion in 2018, followed by a crewed mission to the moon in 2021, & further trips to the moon & Mars after that date.
“Journey to Mars” — asks NASA for a roadmap to send people to Mars by 2033; moreover steers the space agency away from pursuing the Asteroid Redirect Mission (a plan to capture an asteroid, tow it into orbit around Earth, & have astronauts explore the space rock).
“Human Space Flight And Exploration Goals And Objectives” — says it’s the mission of NASA to “to expand permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit.”
“Aeronautics” — calls on NASA to be a leader in aviation & hypersonic aircraft research; moreover asks the space agency to look into supersonic-aircraft research that would “open new global markets & enable new transportation capabilities.”
“Mars 2020 rover” — Congress backs up NASA’s plan to use the car-sized rover to “help determine whether life previously existed on that planet.”
“Europa” — approves of NASA’s plan to send a probe to Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa, which may have a warm subsurface ocean (and possibly host alien life).
“Congressional declaration of policy & purpose” — amends previous laws to make it part of NASA’s mission to “search for life’s origin, evolution, distribution, & future in the universe.”
“Extrasolar planet exploration strategy” — asks NASA to explain how it will use the James Webb Space Telescope & other instruments to hunt for exoplanets.
“Near-Earth objects” — asks NASA to accelerate its program to find killer asteroids in space.
“Radioisotope power systems” — implores NASA to deliver a report on how it plans to make plutonium-238 — an exceedingly rare nuclear fuel for deep-space robots — & detail what its nuclear-powered exploration plans are.
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