Jason DavisMay 23, 2017

NASA's 2018 budget request is here, and we broke down the details

President Trump's full 2018 budget request was released this morning. Unlike the 62-page "skinny" budget preview released in March, this is the full proposal that will go to Congress. In the coming months, both the House and Senate will debate various aspects of the budget before voting on a final version, which will return to the president's desk for a final signature.

Expect a contentious battle over everything from education funding to a proposed southern border wall, with the possibility of a government shutdown on the table.

The NASA portion of the budget, created out of a complex dance between agency leaders, the White House, and the Office of Management and Budget, is now available for download. We're breaking down the details below, and you can expect more analysis from our space policy team in the coming days and weeks.

  • In terms of top-level dollar amounts, there are few changes from the March skinny budget. NASA's total request of $19.1 billion remains roughly 3 percent less than what Congress approved for 2017.
  • The Europa Clipper mission 2018 budget request is $425 million, with a five-year funding profile of $1.63 billion. As was the case in the skinny budget, no funding is specifically allocated for a lander.
  • NASA's education directorate is still on the chopping block. The $37 million it would receive for 2018 is designated for closeout and transition activities.
  • Planetary science would receive $1.93 billion. If approved, this would be the division's highest-ever total.
  • Orion and SLS face potential cuts from their 2017 approved levels; though in the past, Congress has increased these initial numbers.
  • The Earth science missions singled out for cancellation in the skinny budget are still zeroed out: 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).
  • ARM remains canceled. NASA will redirect ARM activities toward development of an solar-electric propulsion bus.

Here are the raw NASA numbers. The last column shows how Trump's 2018 request compares to the 2017 budget passed in May.

Item2017 Obama request2017 Congress approved2018 Trump request% change 2017 approved to 2018
NASA TOTAL$19,025$19,653$19,092-2.9%
Planetary$1,519$1,846 $1,9304.6% 
Astrophysics$782$750 $817 8.9% 
JWST$569$569 $534 -6.2% 
Heliophysics$699$679 $678 -0.1% 
SLS$1,310$2,150$1,938 -9.9% 
Ground systems$429$429$460 7.2% 
Exploration sys subtotal$2,859$3,929$3,584 -8.8%
R & D$477$395$350 -11.4% 
Commercial crew$1,185 $1,683 
Crew & cargo$1,573 $732  
Space trans subtotal$2,758 $2,415  
ISS$1,431 $1,491  
NASA TOTAL$19,025$19,653$19,092-2.9%

Figures in millions of dollars. Obama request does not include mandatory spending.   

Want more information on how NASA's budget comes together? Our director of space policy, Casey Dreier, has you covered:

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NASA's Budget (part 1) The President's Budget Request kicks off the yearly budget season in United States. It takes a year to put together, and Congress plays no part. Why is that?

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