The House has rejected a proposed 12% increase to the NASA budget opting to keep funding at its current level. The move was particularly hard on the Human Landing Systems program, a key element of NASA’s push to return humans to the Moon by 2024.
The House Appropriations subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) introduced its fiscal year 2021 spending bill on July 8. The bill allocated $22.6 billion for NASA and rejected a proposed 12% increase.
In addition to rejecting the agency’s proposed increase, the bill itself appeared to directly contradict individual NASA proposals. The agency had proposed cutting funding for climate change research and increasing funding for its Human Landing Systems (HLS) program from $628 million to $3.37 billion. This increase was in line with the agency’s recent selection of the contractors that will build the landers set to return humans to the Moon, a move that it had not yet made when the agency proposed its 2020 budget.
In the 2021 NASA appropriation bill, the House has not only rejected the proposed cuts to climate change research but increased funding allocated to it. Additionally, instead of the proposed $3.37 billion for the agency’s HLS program, the House has chosen to keep funding at its current level.
During his opening statement, CJS chairman Representative José Serrano appeared to hint at the reasoning behind the subcommittee’s rejection of NASA priorities. “We reject the president’s proposed cuts to climate change research programs at NASA and NOAA and instead invest in those areas,” he said.
Ranking Republican on the House Appropriations committee Kay Granger rebuked the move to reject an increase to HLS funding at such a key moment.
“Specifically, the bill fails to provide adequate funding for an essential component of NASA’s Artemis Program: the human landing systems on which the first woman will travel to the surface of the moon,” said Granger. The inadequate amount included for landers undermines prior year investments in deep space exploration.”
The introduction of the bill is just the first step in a lengthy process. The bill will now be sent to the full committee for markup, a process that is expected to begin next week. It will then be put to the House floor for debate and a vote.