Congress Is Spending How Much on Mars Travel?

March 10th 2017

Nicole Levin

It looks like we're going to Mars. 

As Space News noted, earlier this week, Congress approved The NASA Reauthorization Act of 2017, which gives NASA $19.5 billion dollars in funding to use this fiscal year. 

The bill, which passed with bipartisan support, is the first bill regarding NASA to pass both houses since the NASA Authorization Act of 2010.

While the sizeable budget is nothing newNASA's budget was 18.5 billion in 2016the Mars mandate is. The bill asks that NASA creates a roadmap by the end of this year and land a man on Mars by 2033 something, according to Futurism, that NASA has already been working on

According to section 431.6 of the bill: 

The Committee on Human Spaceflight recommended that NASA define a series of sustainable steps and conduct mission planning and technology development as needed to achieve the long-term goal of placing humans on the surface of Mars.

But in addition to its hefty price tag, there may be an additional cost to the bill: the study of Earth sciences. 

"The bill does not directly address all of NASA's science programs, mainly Earth science and heliophysics" ranking member of the House Science Committee, Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, according to Space News.  

Alt Sci, Space&Tech told Attn: via Twitter that the bill "...did not mention NASA Earth because it would likely not pass with bipartisan support." Instead, the fate of NASA's Earth science budget is likely to be determined in future legislation passed by the President.

As Dr. David Paige, professor of Earth Sciences at UCLA told Attn: it is difficult to predict what this will mean in practice, as the Executive branch essentially has full control over NASA. "They kept the budget positive and the Earth things indeterminate, which gives the administration some license to change their approach," he said.

However, as Attn: reported last November, policy advisors for Trump said that the administration would likely reallocate the part of NASA's budget for Earth sciences to space travel and exploration.

According to Scientific American, NASA's Earth science program makes up just two billion of the total budget and has been around since NASA's inception. NASA's Earth science program is responsible for climate change research, as well as the implementation of satellites that study oceans, atmosphere, agriculture, and weather. 




According to Dr. Page, the data gathered from the NASA program is of interest to the overall study of Earth sciences and if the program were to end, it would be difficult to restart in the future. "You can't just turn it back on again." he said.