Casey DreierJul 10, 2024

The House's 2025 NASA Budget Creates Problems for Science, Artemis

Budget shortfalls threaten to disrupt upcoming missions and schedules

The U.S. House of Representatives’s Appropriations Committee moved forward with a funding bill for NASA in fiscal year 2025 that would provide a modest 1% increase to the agency’s top-line budget and redirect hundreds of millions of dollars to established projects in robotic and human spaceflight. These deviations from the President’s Budget Request create structural deficits that can only be addressed by significant cuts to other programs — the details of which the House leaves up to NASA to sort out should this legislation become law.

The 1.2% increase to NASA is in line with the spending limits instituted by the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, which capped spending in 2024 and 2025, allowing only a 1% increase in the United States’ non-defense discretionary spending in 2025. NASA’s funding is drawn from this account.

Though it represents a slight increase over 2024 in real dollar terms, the House provides $200 million less than the White House’s request and is less than the current rate of inflation. The shortfall does not impact every aspect of the space agency evenly: NASA’s Deep Space Exploration account, which is responsible for the Artemis return to the Moon program, would receive its requested amount of $7.6 billion. The Science Mission Directorate, on the other hand, falls $200 million short of its request. This amount, $7.3 billion, is over $1 billion less for science than NASA was planning for as recently as a year ago and is equal to last year’s congressional allocation, which itself represented a half-billion cut from 2023. This places enormous pressure on NASA’s science projects.

The Planetary Society, along with a coalition of scientific organizations and over 40 members of Congress, supports a restoration of space science funding to $9 billion. It was a lofty goal, but one fully justified: NASA has been directed to pursue a series of ambitious new missions that will probe the frontiers of human knowledge, from Mars Sample Return, to the Habitable Worlds Observatory, to Dragonfly at Titan. There are dozens more missions in various stages of development that address the highest-priority questions in Earth Science, solar physics, planetary science, and astronomy, and they are facing delays and cancellations due to these severe budget deficits. Restoring NASA’s Science Mission Directorate to $9 billion would address the needs of every high-priority science project and account for the cost increases in personnel and materials from recent inflation.

Though the legislation contains a number of positive items for individual NASA science projects, the House budget nonetheless demonstrates the negative outcomes of ongoing cuts to NASA as a whole: less exploration, less science return, and more division and uncertainty among the nation’s scientific disciplines.

There are two particular accounts that illustrate this problem: Artemis and Science.


NASA’s Artemis efforts are funded out of the agency’s Deep Space Exploration Systems account, which includes the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft, the Human Landing System contracts with SpaceX and Blue Origin, and related components such as the Gateway space station and new lunar space suits.

The total amount requested by the White House in FY 2025 for this account was $7.6 billion, a few tens of million less than in 2024 but functionally flat. Within this amount, however, NASA had proposed to shift some funding from the SLS and Orion programs to new programs for later Artemis flights. The thinking was that SLS and Orion, having achieved a successful test launch with Artemis I, would move from a more expansive (and expensive) development project into a leaner, focused production model.

The House rejected this proposal and mandated continued funding for both programs at historical levels, roughly half a billion dollars. The legislation also mandates that NASA spend or exceed funding on lunar space suits and the Human Landing System. These limitations leave only the Gateway space station project and two modest technology development programs to absorb the half-billion-dollar hole created by moving funding back to SLS and Orion.

 2024 ActualFY25 RequestFY25 House AppropriationChange from Request
Deep Space Exploration Systems$7,650$7,618$7,618$0
Moon to Mars Transportation System$4,783$4,213$4,738+$525
Space Launch System$2,600$2,423$2,600+$177
Exploration Ground Systems$898$759$799+$40
Moon to Mars Lunar Systems Development$2,666$3,288$2,771-$408 to -$525
Gateway$855$818not specified-$413 to -$670
xEVA and Human Surface Mobility Program+$358$434$495+$61
Human Landing System$1,419$1,896$1,864-$32
Advanced Exploration Systems$141$140not specified$0 to -$140
Human Exploration Requirements & Architecture$94$117not specified$0 to -$117
The FY2025 House Appropriations legislation maintains a flat topline for NASA's Deep Space Exploration Systems account but preserves historical funding levels for the SLS/Orion/EGS projects. Additionally, the legislation specifies sustained or modestly increased funding for the lunar space suits and Human Landing System contracts. This creates a half-billion-dollar hole that can only be filled in by redirecting funds away from other NASA accounts, severe cuts to the Gateway and future project planning offices, or both. The cuts enumerated here are illustrative assuming no additional funds are moved into this account.

In the worst-case scenario, the Gateway station loses close to ⅔ of its funding in a single year. This outcome is unlikely, but it illustrates the pressures placed on aspects of the Artemis budget within a nominally “good” top-line budget. Should this bill become law, NASA has leeway to move a limited amount of money between accounts to offset these cuts, though any outside funds would have to come from other agency programs. Alternatively, it’s possible that the costs of the Human Landing System may be less than anticipated due to SpaceX or Blue Origin not making certain milestones — a situation that appears to have occurred in FY 2024. Either way, it’s a difficult challenge with an uncertain outcome for a keystone project for Artemis’ international partnerships.

Annual budgets for NASA's Deep Space Exploration Systems, including projections from the FY 2025 budget request. This incorporates funding for the SLS, Orion, Human Landing System, Gateway, and related systems. All normalized to 2025 dollars. Inflation adjustments via NASA's New Start Index.


A similar problem afflicts NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, which, as stated earlier, would receive $232 million less than requested by the agency. These losses are distributed (relative to the request) through nearly every science division, and the bill redirects additional funds to provide a modest increase to Planetary Science. Most of these cuts are minor relative to the actual FY 2024 levels, though Earth Science is a notable exception. But even the increase in Planetary Science comes with a catch.

 2024 ActualFY25 RequestFY25 House AppropriationChange from Request
Earth Science$2,187$2,379$2,000-$379
Planetary Science$2,717$2,732$2,930$199
Biological & Physical Science$87.5$90.8$85-$5.8
The changes proposed by the House FY 2025 appropriations bill for NASA science would provide less funding than requested for nearly every division. Even the Planetary Science Division, which nominally would see a modest increase, is directed to spend a significant amount on Mars Sample Return beyond what's provided, leading to cutbacks in other programs. All amounts in millions of dollars.

The Planetary Science Division is slated for a $199 million increase relative to 2024, a welcome increase given that the division suffered a loss of nearly half a billion dollars last year. However, the Mars Sample Return project is directed to receive $650 million, an increase of $450 million above the request. While the funding is sorely needed to ensure a rapid restart of a new sample return campaign (whatever that may be) and to preserve the Mars exploration workforce throughout the country, it would come at a significant cost to other programs. Only $199 million of the $450 million increase to MSR is offset by the budget augmentation provided to the Planetary Science Division in the House legislation, leaving roughly $250 million unaccounted for. As before, the House would leave it to NASA to identify which projects would shoulder those cuts within planetary science.

The House further singles out several planetary programs to receive their full requested funding levels, including NEO Surveyor and the robotic and commercial lunar exploration program. This would ensure the cuts would fall disproportionately on the Discovery, New Frontiers, and fundamental research accounts. This couldn’t come at a worse time as the agency aims to restart the VERITAS mission to Venus in the coming fiscal year and the Dragonfly mission was recently confirmed for a 2028 launch. Any cuts to the planned funding for these programs will lead to substantial delays and potentially more layoffs across the country.

Annual budgets for NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD), including projections from the FY 2025 budget request. All normalized to 2025 dollars. Inflation adjustments via NASA's New Start Index.

What’s Next

This legislation is one side of an unfinished conversation between the two chambers of the U.S. Congress, and it is important to keep this framing in mind when considering the items discussed above. The Senate will release its own version of NASA’s 2025 budget in the coming weeks, representing its own mix of policy priorities, parochial interests, and political positioning in contrast to the House’s legislation. Ultimately the two chambers must negotiate and resolve their differences in order to provide a final budget for NASA that is acceptable to the President, who must sign the bill for it to become law. Much has yet to be done.

The final legislation for NASA funding in 2024 was considerably different from the House bill introduced that year, and it’s possible that could occur again. This is also a major election year, the results of which could result in a dramatically different balance of power in January 2025. It is highly unlikely that we will see a resolution of this budget prior to the election (the current budget will almost certainly be extended as a continuing resolution until November or December).

In the meantime, The Planetary Society and its partners will continue to argue for the importance of space and science funding, and to restore the cuts that are undermining so many exciting opportunities in space. More than ever, we are seeing the costs of underfunding these unique and ambitious projects. The spending limits no longer apply after September 30, 2025, and if we can find commonsense, balanced approaches to our exploration ambitions next year, the whole Cosmos could yet open up in the decade to come.

NASA's FY 2025 Budget

The White House proposed $25.4 billion for NASA in 2025, a modest increase from the previous year, and far less than originally planned.

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