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Trump's first budget proposal is out. Here's how NASA fared

Posted by Jason Davis

16-03-2017 7:08 CDT

Topics: Space Policy

The Trump administration released its first federal budget request this morning

The 62-page document covers fiscal year 2018, which begins on Oct. 1. It’s known as a "skinny" budget—not because of its cuts to discretionary spending, which are significant—but because first-term presidents have had less time to fill in all the details of their future policy plans. A more detailed budget proposal is expected in spring.

Two pages are dedicated to NASA. Here are the highlights:

  • NASA's top line is $19.1 billion, meaning the agency has, overall, escaped large-scale cuts.
  • The Asteroid Redirect Mission is canceled.
  • Orion, SLS and ground systems stand to receive $3.7 billion, which is in line with proposed 2017 congressional levels.
  • Public-private partnerships are endorsed as the foundation of future U.S. civilian space efforts, but there is no further guidance. The Moon-versus-Mars destination debate is not mentioned.
  • Planetary science stands to get $1.9 billion, which is higher than 2017 Obama and congressional levels.
  • The Europa Clipper mission will proceed (without a specific dollar amount), but the separate lander mission did not receive any funding.
  • Earth science only gets $1.8 billion. That's about a 13 percent cut from 2017 Obama levels, and in between proposed House and Senate 2017 levels. 
  • Some Earth science missions would be canceled: PACE (not yet launched), OCO-3 (not yet launched), DSCOVR Earth-viewing instruments (no more pretty pictures of Earth?), and CLARREO Pathfinder (not yet launched).
  • The office of education (part of the science directorate) would be eliminated, owing to it performing functions that are "duplicative of other parts of the agency."

Today’s budget release is only one step of the overall process. As mentioned above, a more comprehensive budget is still pending. Both the House and Senate will weigh in on the proposal, make changes, and send a final version back to the president for a signature. Additionally, Congress has yet to solidify a budget for fiscal year 2017, having passed a series of continuing resolutions to fund most of the government at 2016 levels.

But today’s announcement is still significant because it acts as a starting point for Congress. Overall, the Trump budget calls for defense spending to increase by 10 percent, while some federal agencies like the EPA stand to take major hits.

We’ll have more analysis on this in the days and weeks to come. Don't miss our special Planetary Radio space policy edition podcasts for more background details!

Here are some selected budget numbers. All figures are in millions of dollars. 2017 Obama request numbers include mandatory and discretionary spending.

Open the dataset in a separate window by clicking here.

Europa Clipper concept

NASA / JPL-Caltech

Europa Clipper concept
NASA's Europa Clipper mission would launch as early as 2022 and assess the habitability of Europa, paving the way for a future separate lander mission.
See other posts from March 2017


Or read more blog entries about: Space Policy


Atom: 03/16/2017 06:39 CDT

The planetary budget is a big positive since it is approaching the level it will need to sustain the development of multiple Flagship missions in the coming decades. Committee Chairman Culberson will no doubt insist that Europa lander gets funded. As far as where the Orion Astronauts go, how about having them rendezvous in lunar with an automated lunar sample retrieval mission from the South Poles Aitkin Basin as proposed in the New Frontiers proposals. That way the sample could be much more massive since it wouldn't need the rocket to fire out of lunar orbit or re-entry capsule and parachute.

Pete_VT: 03/16/2017 10:16 CDT

My understanding is thes cuts seen to Earth Science and studies will be followed with increases for NOAA. This is in line with President Trumps goal of seperating the focus of NASA and NOAA. NASA does planetary science, NOAA does earth science.

Stephen: 03/16/2017 11:11 CDT

@Pete_VT: "My understanding is thes[e] cuts seen to Earth Science and studies will be followed with increases for NOAA." That is NOT what is being reported in the media. A headline in the Washington Post, for example, reads: "Proposed budget for Commerce would cut funds for NOAA". Meanwhile Nature is reporting that: "An earlier, leaked White House budget document proposed a $510 million cut to the agency's $2.3 billion satellite division, as part of a broader 17% drop in NOAA's overall funding." Nature';s report goes on: "'While the details are hard to find in this budget, it appears that climate research and climate observing systems are being cut by at least 20%' across the government, says David Titley, NOAA's chief operating officer from 2012-2013 and the former oceanographer of the Navy. 'Although we don’t know the exact extent of the cut, if you are being led to the gallows and no one is making eye contact with you, it is not a good sign.'"

Messy: 03/17/2017 09:16 CDT

The drastic cuts to NOAA and NASA's earth science budget are meant to hurt ordinary people by degrading information on the environment and promote pollution (Trump's first bill was to get rid of badly needed environmental regulations). Why do you think he appointed the EPA director and Education secretary?

Bryan See: 03/17/2017 01:33 CDT

I may be right, as funding allocated for space tech appears to be non-existent. Trump has an open distrust to technology (including computers, whom he blamed for complicating lives rather than), as well as being anti-science. Such actions will surely prevent any manned mission to Mars and beyond. It was warned two years ago by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and reflects one of the prophecies of the late Bulgarian seer Baba Vanga: "Everything will melt away like ice yet the glory of Vladimir, the glory of Russia are the only things that will remain. Russia will not only survive, it will dominate the world." In other words, there could be a very powerful social movement that's anti-technology, principally led by Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who may be the Vladimir Vanga referred to.

arbitrary: 03/17/2017 01:50 CDT

I'm very positively surprised by this budget proposal. Almost everything discretionary except the military is slaughtered, still NASA is saved unharmed. Planetary science remains stable. In spite of your CEO Bill Bye publicly calling Donald Trump mentally ill a couple of weeks ago, because he doesn't believe in the vehemently disproven global warming doomsday myth (as if that would help someone whose job it is to lobby for interplanetary exploration). I suppose that the Planetary Society is simply being ignored, and your political irrelevance works to your advantage this time! (I still appreciate your very good public outreach and a mission like the light sail, I'm just saying that politicians don't hear you). Europa lander scrapped, but that was very ambitious and I never saw much enthusiasm about it from the general online science community. The monies seem to remain to be spent on some other mission instead. Trump could've slashed NASA by many billions. I think this is more than surviving one budget. I think this indicates that NASA has a relative priority for this new administration. At least not deprioritized, and that is as much one can hope for. I expect huge changes to come when a new NASA director is named. I think this looks much like an auto pilot kind of budget that mostly keeps stuff floating as they were until the real new management is in place. Except for a couple of torpedoes.

eltodesukane: 03/18/2017 08:00 CDT

Considering that I don't care for human spaceflight (Orion, SLS, ..), I'm not impressed by this budget. -- The first (and last) mission to Uranus and Neptune was launched on August 20, 1977. That was more than 39 years ago. We are still waiting for the next one. What a shame. (what a waste the Space Shuttle and the Space Station have been..)

Red: 03/18/2017 10:35 CDT

This budget is merciful despite the Earth science damage. While I'm no Trump fan, I recall how little Obama cared for NASA beyond using it as an extension of the EPA.

Paul_Wi11iams: 03/18/2017 11:59 CDT

@arbitrary 03/17/2017: at least one personal opinion in your answer is expressed as being objective fact, and the word "I" appears nine times throughout your answer. Far form being insulting, Bill Nye's open letter to Donald Trump seems polite and respectful: Maybe you confused this with his firm but polite reply to Joe Bastardi who challenged him on climate change: You may have a point about the Earth global warming debate "polluting" Planetary's space lobbying activity so losing political attention. But then Earth *is* a planet, much like Venus which also has a climate debate. ===================================== @Jason Davis 2017/03/16: Looking at the following quote: "Orion, SLS and ground systems stand to receive $3.7 billion, which is in line with proposed 2017 congressional levels. Public-private partnerships are endorsed as the foundation of future U.S. civilian space efforts. From the images in Bill Nye's letter to Trump, the Planetary Society seems to be backing both horses: SLS and private launchers. Many inside Nasa seem to doubt SLS. Objectively it does seem to be taking money that should go to space probes and manned missions to places. Of course, your article is an initial presentation of the news, not acting on it. However, is there (or will there be) a page on that expresses a clear position on the choice between SLS and/or private launches? PS Is there any way for your webmaster to set the comments dates to the international aaaa/mm/dd as in the article date ?

Karen: 03/18/2017 02:27 CDT

@eltodesukane: Uranus and Neptune at least have the excuse of being very far away. That, combined with the fact that the typical desired mission (long-term orbital mission observing both the planet and its moons rings) requires significant capabilities, and because power is so sparse out there, such missions are expensive. Look at how much Cassini cost. The real embarrassment is how long it's been since there's been a dedicated mission to Venus from the US. Easiest planet in the solar system to get to, abundant power, atmosphere for aerobraking and entry probe deceleration, massive unanswered questions (both atmosphere and surface)... and the US just ignores it. I'm sure some of the people responsible for such decisions argue that brief observations during gravitational assists count, but they're simply not comparable. Don't get me wrong, I really want to see Uranus and Neptune missions as well :) But they're going to be expensive.

Paul_Wi11iams: 03/18/2017 04:05 CDT

Sorry to clutter the comments section but I'm correcting the last sentence to: "Is there any way for your webmaster to set the comments dates to the international yyyy/mm/dd as in the article date?". The format mm/dd/yyyy is specifically USA and is read by the English as dd/mm/yyyy. The ISO format, understood in all countries, which is also the DP sorting format is (ideally) hyphenated year-month-day. Activating comment editing would also avoid these post-scripts to comments. Thanks for all your regular blog posts anyway :)

arbitrary: 03/18/2017 05:07 CDT

@Paul_Wi11iams Have you seen this: And that was AFTER the election of an obviously anti-climate president. An he has had some bad performances in news media before that. His personal political views have become a liability for the Planetary Society. Whatever his views are, his job is as a lobbyist and he must at least in public adapt himself. Look at how Elon Musk does it, he applauds the oil man Rex Tillerson as being climate friendly! And he is nominally an adviser of the president, a position the planetary Society's CEO should have made sure to get. I doubt Bill Nye will ever be let into the White House again, after his hateful attacks and irrational rants. This is a horrible catastrophy for a lobbyist, for any lobbyist for anything: Either Bill Nye has to go NOW, or the Planetary Society will go away. There are super realistic pragmatic guys like Casey Dryer around, and Emily Lakdawalla, and many more. I don't think that the Planetary society is targeting its very rich human resources optimally. Bill Nye is a funny clown with his bow tie and all, but that is not enough, and I don't think it is appropriate for the Planetary Society. And now he is politically controversial to say the least (calling the president mentally ill ("cognitively dissonant") because of some issue outside of his job as a lobbyist for more tax money spent on planetary science. Maybe it worked last year, but no more. Please get a CEO that is not a sever liability! Your purpose is too important to have Bill Nye swindle it. I don't argue about the climate change, here, (although I do have an obvious opinion about that). I'm arguing about the Planetary Society taking an already lost fight against the hand that is feeding NASA. That doesn't look like a winning strategy.

Paul_Wi11iams: 03/18/2017 07:21 CDT

@arbitrary: 03/18/2017 05:07 quote: "Have you seen this:". The comments after that vidéo tend to confirm the reputation of Fox News and of Tucker Carlson. In that interview he was clearly trying to polarize the discussion level and destabilize Bill Nye. Bill's examples of snow and of grapes were good: Despite some good seasons such as this winter, low-altitude ski stations in the Alpes near here are slowly closing down for ever. I'm often in the Beaujolais and the grape harvesting gets earlier year by year. Glad not to be in the Bordeaux area as they'll soon be out of business. Bill may have been mistaken in accepting that interview with someone so divisive. Divisiveness can be infectious, and its I hope it doesn't spread to the Planetary blog comments section ! I followed your link below, but only had time to read the text (its bedtime here), and will watch the video later. As far as The Independent is concerned, Bill's views seemed well communicated and received, no problem. Reading around, it does seem that Bill Nye is now committed to views he has been expressing for years. Elon Musk too (among others) has also been clear in his opinions, and said before the election that Trump does not seem to be "the right man for the job". Such openness doesn't seem to cause him too many problems just now ! As for the question of who should do the PR job for Planetary, well I have no inside knowledge, and do not know your status there (member?). From a limited experience of societies/foundations, its good to shuffle jobs within the organization, and to vary the outside communication interface maybe not irreversibly, but I've no pretension of suggesting what other people should do.

Arbitrary: 03/21/2017 10:50 CDT

Let Bill Nye go from the Planetary society, so that he can argue publicly about his views on climate politics full time without damaging space exploration in his personal war against the White House. Wouldn't that be a win-win deal? Who would lose? There are plenty of great potential top lobbyists for the PS, a CEO should be easy to recruit. I think many would feel honored to take on the assignment, even if they were previously never active for the Society. One golden category would be someone who has actually been deeply involved with one of the fantastic NASA space exploration mission. For example Alan Stern or Marc Rayman, although they maybe remain too intimately tied up with NASA for some years to come. But Paul Spudis maybe? Given that popular speculations indicate that the new WH will prioritize human exploration of the Moon, I think that "Dr. Moon" would get all the political attention and access to that process that the Planetary Society ever could dream of. Bill Nye is an entertainer, and I love his personal style. I think he's great for public outreach making the general public more aware of spaceflight. But even aside from his personal political views suddenly having become a liability, I don't think that public outreach should be the focus of the CEO anymore. When politics change, lobbyists must be changed too. Focus on (quickly!) getting a CEO who knows how to deal with the politicians who make the budget decisions, from a point of superior scientific authority and/or space operational experience.

Arbitrary: 03/21/2017 11:13 CDT

Let me develop the last sentence above: , from a point of superior PERSONAL scientific authority and/or space operational experience. Someone who can say to anyone: "-I know this stuff, I've done it, I've been there. It was a resounding success. I've learned how to succeed with space flight and the plan I present here will do it again."

Paul McCarthy: 03/22/2017 12:23 CDT

And who can say: "Someday, once you're retired from your current high political office, and as you get old and contemplative, your mind is definitely gonna turn to the big questions, and you're gonna wonder (again) whether there's life beyond Earth, and you're gonna really, really be glad (or regretful) that you did (or didn't) fund those missions to Europa, Enceladus, Ceres and Mars that are likely to answer that question in your lifetime. In other words, appeal to the politicians' self interest. It's gotta be one of the most powerful forces at work on them.

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