The President's Budget Request (PBR) for NASA was released on 10 February 2020 and proposes $25.2 billion for the fiscal year (FY) 2021, an increase of 12% from the previous year. The increase is used to support an accelerated lunar program with a 2024 crewed landing goal.
The FY 2021 Presidential Budget Request
|2020 Enacted||2021 PBR||% Change|
|Orion Crew Vehicle||$1,407||$1,400||-0.5%|
|Safety, Security, & Mission Services||$2,913||$3,010||+3.3%|
|Construction and Environmental Compliance||$373||$539||+45%|
|NASA Inspector General||$41.7||$44.2||+6%|
* The proposal renames the Space Technology Mission Directorate to the Exploration Technology Mission Directorate.
All values are in millions of dollars. Directorate/top-level line-items are in boldface, divisions and major projects are in standard formatting; sub-programs are in italics. All major directorates are listed but not all sub-divisions or projects are included here.
NASA's budget during the Trump Administration. The vertical axis displays both NASA's total congressional appropriation in billions of dollars and the amount requested by the President. The horizontal axis is fiscal years. NASA's full budget history dataset is available to view or to download as an Excel spreadsheet.
Note: all quotes are from NASA's FY 2021 president's budget request and related documents.
- Significant funding increases to support crewed lunar landing and surface operations by 2024.
- Indefinitely defers upgraded second stage for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket (a.k.a. the Block 1b variant) to focus work on the Block 1a version, which serves NASA's immediate needs around the Moon.
- "Proposes to launch the Europa Clipper on a commercial launch vehicle to save over $1.5 billion compared to using an SLS rocket."
- "Funds Mars robotic exploration, including a Mars Sample Return mission and Mars Ice Mapper, as a precursor to human exploration."
- $451 million for commercial and scientific lunar exploration, an increase of 50% from FY 2020.
- Provides no funding to for the Near-Earth Object Survellience Mission (NEOSM), a small space telescope dedicated to finding potentially hazardous asteroids. This is despite NASA's announcement that it would pursue this mission in September of 2019.
Proposed Cuts in FY 2021
- Proposes termination of two astrophysics missions, WFIRST and SOFIA. The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is a top priority for the astrophysics community and is in development with a launch date of 2025. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), an airborne observatory, is in active operations. The White House's official rationale for their cancellation is so NASA can "focus on higher priorities including completion of the James Webb Space Telescope." The James Webb telescope is struggling to meet its launch date and is billions of dollars over-budget.
- "Termination of two Earth science missions (PACE and CLARREO-Pathfinder)." Both were proposed for cancellation but ultimately funded by Congress last year.
- "Redirects funds from the Office of STEM Engagement's portfolio of grants and cooperative agreements to NASA's core mission of exploration."
President's Budget Request Source Documents
Legislative activity was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. It wasn't until 7 July 2020 that the House of Representatives' Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) subcommittee released their draft legislation for NASA's FY 2021 budget. The bill rejected the proposed top-line increase in the President's request, freezing NASA at its FY 2020 level. Within this amount, it shifted money to NASA's science missions, notably Earth Science, Astrophysics (by restoring funding for the Roman Space Telescope), and provided a modest increase to Planetary Science. The legislation rejected the President's proposal to end NASA's STEM Outreach program.
The bill restricted spending on NASA's lunar activities until the agency "submits a multi-year plan...that identifies estimated dates, by fiscal year, for Space Launch System flights to build the Gateway; the commencement of partnerships with commercial entities for additional LEO missions to land humans and rovers on the Moon; and conducting additional scientific activities on the Moon."
On 31 July 2020, the House of Representatives voted on—and passed—6 appropriations bills combined as a single "minibus" legislative package. Though largely unchanged from its draft, the final bill incorporated a number of minor amendments, including one stating that NASA must spend at least $40M on the NEO Surveillance Mission, though no additional funding was provided.
The Senate's CJS subcommittee has yet to release its own version of
NASA's FY 2021 budget. When it does, the 2 competing bills must be reconciled, passed by both chambers of Congress, and then signed by President before becoming law.
|2020 Enacted||2021 PBR||House CJS|
|Orion Crew Vehicle||$1,407||$1,401||$1,401|
|Safety, Security, & Mission Services||$2,913||$3,010||$2,953|
|Construction and Environmental Compliance||$373||$539||$419|
|NASA Inspector General||$41.7||$44.2||$44.2|
* The Presidential proposal renames the Space Technology Mission Directorate to the Exploration Technology Mission Directorate. The House rejected that change. All values are in millions of dollars. Directorate/top-level line-items are in boldface, divisions and major projects are in standard formatting; sub-programs are in italics. All major directorates are listed but not all sub-divisions or projects are included here.
House Appropriations Committee FY 2021 Documents
A new budget submission from the White House would continue record-high funding for planetary science, but proposes deep cuts to 2 productive Mars missions and defers funding for deep space telescope dedicated to finding hazardous near-Earth objects.