This week, the House Science Committee (HSC) will vote on its piece of a multibillion-dollar budget measure that includes numerous billion dollars for NASA facilities but none for lunar lander growth. The House Science Committee will meet on September 9 to mark up a piece of a $3.5 trillion expenditure plan that is being reviewed through a budget reconciliation procedure. Without the fear of a filibuster, the law can pass the Senate with the simple majority and no filibuster.
The committee will spend $45.51 billion on NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as National Science Foundation, among other organizations under its jurisdiction. It is going to be merged with elements of the bill allocated to other committees to form the final version of the bill that will be discussed by the entire House.
The bill’s latest draught, dated September 4, contains both good and bad tidings for NASA. It includes $4 billion for “physical infrastructure and facility repair, recapitalization, and modernization” across the agency. There are no dollar allocations assigned to individual projects or centres in the bill.
Bill Nelson, the NASA Administrator, had previously requested more than $5 billion in funding for agency facilities as part of any budget reconciliation agreement. In May, he told House appropriators, “There is aged infrastructure that is dilapidated. At Michoud Assembly Facility located in New Orleans, “they’ve got holes in a roof where they’re putting all together with the core of the SLS.” Hurricane Ida wreaked havoc on Michoud earlier this month.
However, the draught bill makes no provision for Nelson’s other priority, the Human Landing System (HLS) programme of the agency. Nelson stated in May that he requested $5.4 billion for HLS so that NASA could choose a second business to work with SpaceX on developing and demonstrating a lander capable of delivering men to and from the lunar surface.
However, there is no mention of HLS in the bill. It does increase $388 million to NASA’s climate change exploration and development budget, with $225 million going to the agency’s aeronautics directorate for sustainable aviation. The remaining funds would be utilized for research and modelling, data administration, and wildfire monitoring and response assistance. NASA’s cybersecurity would receive an additional $7 million.
Nelson stated in an interview on 19th August that the budget reconciliation plan is one of two options NASA is exploring to secure the additional cash required for a second HLS award. The conventional annual appropriations procedure is the alternative option, albeit a House appropriations package passed in July only increased HLS spending by $150 million over the agency’s request of $1.195 billion.