Considering that NASA’s budget for 2020 was $22.6 billion, which was a 5% increase from 2019’s budget, will NASA have the budget to visit Mars as they’ve planned to do? Let’s find out.
The $22.6 billion mentioned earlier might sound like a lot of money, but it includes all the technological and economic advancements of the department in the United States. This can impact our everyday lives in a big way, which is why it is vital to understand how this budget will impact NASA’s plans for its Mars mission.
Recently, NASA has partnered with different private industries to expand their research and resources. These partnerships may be the key to a successful NASA Mars mission and increased space exploration.
NASA’s budget and funding come directly from the government through federal revenue from corporate, income, and other taxes. However, the budget also has some incentives for private businesses, like SpaceX, to partner with NASA. It is one of the main reasons why private firms have started to partner with NASA for deep-space exploration, space station operations, and satellite groups.
One example of this is the $150 million project for low-Earth orbit missions in the private sector. Sierra Nevada, Orbital ATK, and SpaceX have all been appointed by NASA to make supply runs. Boeing and SpaceX also worked together to develop state-of-the-art crew capsules to carry astronauts to the International Space Station in 2018. The first commercial space station is also being designed by Axiom Space.
NASA is also set to take a more active role to ensure that space technologies are more commercialized. A lot of initiatives by NASA with private firms have applications in business and the military. For example, NASA is currently funding the supersonic X-Plane. It is also increasing the budget for research into hypersonic flight. The department is also focusing on strengthening cybersecurity capabilities and air traffic management.
NASA’s budget will also be used for the Space Launch System rocket. It is intended to carry astronauts back to the moon in the coming years. Robotic missions will also be sent to the surface of the moon as well as to create a lunar space tug by 2022. The space agency also plans to send robots to Mars in 2020 and send a probe to fly by Europa, Jupiter’s moon.
An analysis of the NASA budget shows that the agency plans to do a lot with its funding. While a lot of the resources will not be spent since private firms are doing a lot of labor, there is still a lot to do. Private partnerships have made it possible for the agency to get the technology to complete the NASA Mars mission. However, there is still a lot on NASA’s plate, especially the return to the moon. This can make it difficult for NASA to make it to Mars soon.
NASA Mars Mission and Our Return to the Moon
The goal for the moon landing in 2024 was announced in 2019 by Vice President Mike Pence, and work on amendments to the budget has been underway in Congress for months. Jim Bridenstine, the administrator of NASA, was pushed for details about the estimated cost for the Artemis Program but didn’t give much information.
NASA finally released a full budget request document outlining some details on the Artemis Program. However, there is still a lot of information missing. The document points to either a full human exploration project on the moon or a program to go to Mars from the moon. It doesn’t isolate the Artemis Program on its own. This makes it harder to check whether NASA has enough funding for the NASA Mars mission alone.
The program designed to go from the moon to Mars estimates an average of $12.5 billion till 2027. Another NASA document estimates that the overall budget for NASA ranges from $25-29 billion until 2025. According to the budgeting department at NASA, the top priority for the department is to take astronauts back to the moon in 2024 and then build a sustainable base on the surface. NASA says that this mission will be the first step to taking American astronauts to Mars.
NASA suggests that the new budget is designed to eliminate low-priority projects in order to get to the moon. However, as we saw above, NASA plans on doing a lot with the budget it has. Nevertheless, the NASA document highlighted NASA’s plans for space exploration timings in more detail.
In 2021, a test flight without a crew will be launched. In 2022, a test with a crew will be launched, followed by a crewed landing for 2024. The NASA document highlights one crewed spacecraft mission every year from 2025 to 2030. The missions will continue as humans work and live in orbit as crew flights and commercial cargo will support them.
The budget request document also includes the Space Launch System rocket for deep-space exploration. As we speak, Congress is not enthusiastic about the White House plan to go back to the moon via the Artemis Program. They are more in favor of setting Mars as a priority for exploration rather than heading back to the moon. They have outlined their own plans for the NASA Mars mission, which skips over the 2024 moon landing.
As of now, the budget for the Moon-to-Mars mission proposed by NASA has not been approved for funding, but neither has a budget plan to go to Mars. With private-public partnerships, NASA will have the resources to take a human-crewed mission to Mars soon. However, there is still contention over the NASA budget on its own.
The good news is that both NASA and the government do plan on going to Mars. It’s just a question of being given approval for the Moon-to-Mars plan or designing plan to go straight to Mars. Either way, the government is set to allocate enough funding to NASA for the Mars mission. This means that NASA’s vision to land on Mars by 2050 is still possible in terms of budgeting.