Trump’s Budget Kills NASA Asteroid Mission and the Space Agency’s Education Office

Some of NASA missions in development – including one to land on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa and a few Earth science missions – will not go forward as per President Donald Trump’s budget proposal for fiscal 2018.

The $19.1 billion Trump proposed for NASA represents a 0.8 percent cut, or about $200 million, from the space agency’s 2016 budget.

Plus, the administration reaffirmed its commitment to the the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket expected to bring NASA astronauts to deep space destinations in the coming years.

The planetary science budget has actually increased, so NASA can spend more on investigating other planets and moons. For instance, the Environmental Protection Agency would have a 31 percent reduction in its budget.

Trump’s $1.15 trillion budget proposal, unveiled Thursday, would eliminate an earth sciences satellite being built and tested at Goddard for launch in 2022 to study the earth’s oceans. Nor did it contradict NASA’s goal, established under President Obama, to get humans to Mars by the mid-2030s. The document argues that under the new budget, NASA will be open to “collaboration with industry” for operating the space station, developing deep-space habitats, and maintaining small satellite constellations.

A view of the moon transiting the Earth from the Deep Space Climate Observatory stationed almost a million miles from Earth.

Despite these defunded programs and missions, the new budget request does draw focus to other NASA initiatives, such as commercial space travel.

No reason for canceling the ARM was given other than to “accommodate increasing development costs” in other exploration programs. The rocket has faced criticism of being an expensive government rocket, and many supporters of “new space” think that NASA should get out of building rockets altogether and start buying rides from private companies, like Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The lack of an increase for SLS and Orion probably means that NASA won’t be changing its current mission plan for the programs. The first piloted mission is targeted for the 2021 timeframe, although NASA is looking into the possibility of putting astronauts aboard the initial flight. Trump rather wants the agency to continue Mars 2020, a mission set to send a sample-collecting rover to the Red Planet.

The ARM missions were seen as a precursor to piloted missions to Mars in the 2030s.

On March 16, President Trump revealed his 2018 budget blueprint for the entire USA government, and it offers the first concrete details yet on his vision for American space exploration.

The budget also calls for NASA to launch Mars 2020, a nuclear-powered rover created to search for signs of ancient life on Mars, and the Europa Clipper, a probe that’d study Europa – Jupiter’s largest icy, ocean-hiding moon. Other projects on the chopping board include the PACE (monitoring ocean health), CLARREO (projects future climate), and DSCOVR (a mission proposed by Al Gore).

NASA’s education funding, which was about $115 million previous year, will be completely eliminated under this budget request. The request argues that this will allow NASA’s Science Mission Directorate to be more focused on the agency’s education efforts. But his plans to scrap the agency’s education office could end programs serving many students in Greater Cleveland and elsewhere.

Logsdon said it was not surprising that ARM was cancelled because “the mission has never been a favorite of Republicans in Congress”.

The Deep Space Climate Observatory is an American satellite that sits in a special orbit between the earth and the sun, about 1.5 million kilometers away from us.

Congress has the final say over budgets, and White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney acknowledged to reporters that passing the cuts could be an uphill struggle.

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