NASA wants Mars, Jupiter as it begins 2016 budget journey

NASA wants $500 million budget increase to boldly go into the future

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In the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden delivers a “state of the agency” address on Feb. 2, 2015 at NASA's televised fiscal year 2016 budget rollout event with Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana looking on, at right.  NASA's Orion, SpaceX Dragon and Boeing CST-100 spacecraft, all destined to play a role in NASA’s overall exploration objectives, were on display.

Credit: NASA

It’s hard to predict what hurdles NASA’s budget will face with a new congress but the agency has some bold goals for the next year and beyond – not the least of which will be getting an extra $500 million in funding.

The space agency’s chief administrator Charles Bolden this week detailed the new budget -- $18.5 billion total – and offered a look at what NAS wants to focus on – a trip to Jupiter’s moon Europa, new space communications technology, the James Webb space telescope and a voyage to Mars – going forward.

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The journey to Mars remains a primary NASA goal, designed to answer some of humanity’s fundamental questions about life beyond Earth and what it can teach us about Earth's past, present and future, Bolden said.

Bolden noted that the budget proposal supports the Obama administration's commitment to serve as a catalyst for the growth of a vibrant American commercial space industry, including development of commercial crew transportation.

"American companies are developing the new systems in which astronauts soon will travel from the United States to low-Earth orbit," Bolden said. "That journey, indeed our entire path to the future, starts right here on Earth. Our commercial crew work, for example, is headquartered here at Kennedy, but encompasses efforts in 37 states."

Bolden noted that the budget allows NASA to continue development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System and Exploration Ground Systems that will one day send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit.

The Space Launch System (SLS) is a new heavy-lift rocket, more powerful than any previously built. SLS will be capable of sending humans aboard Orion to deep-space destinations such as an asteroid and Mars.

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A Delta IV Heavy rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying NASA's Orion spacecraft on an unpiloted flight test to Earth orbit. During the two-orbit, four-and-a-half hour mission, engineers evaluated systems critical to crew safety, the launch abort system, the heat shield and the parachute system.

Some other NASA 2016 budget specifics:

  • $1,947 million for Earth Science including a plan to continue the 42-year Landsat record of global land-imaging measurements.
  • $1,361 million for Planetary Science including formulation of a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. Scientists say Europa - which orbits the planet Jupiter about 778 million km (484 million miles) from the Sun - could support life because it might have an ocean of liquid water under its miles-thick frozen crust. NASA’s 4-ton Juno spacecraft is expected to begin exploring the big planet by 2016.
  • $709 million for Astrophysics including the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).
  • $620 million to keep the James Webb Space Telescope on track for launch in 2018.
  • $651 million for Heliophysics including keeping Solar Probe Plus on track for launch in 2018.
  • Funds over 10,000 U.S. scientists in universities, industry, and government labs through over 3,000 openly competed research awards.
  • Includes $4,506 million for Exploration and $4,004 million for Space Operations.
  • Continues commercial development of US crew transportation systems to be certified to support the ISS by the end of 2017, ending the need to pay Russia for crew transport services.
  • Enables use of ISS as a platform for scientists to identify and quantify risks to human health and performance, develop countermeasures, and develop and test technologies that protect astronauts during extended human exploration missions.
  • Conducts 6 in-space demonstrations: deep space atomic clock for advanced navigation and outer planetary science investigations, green propellant alternative to hydrazine, and four small spacecraft demos.
  • Pioneers fundamental research, and the most promising technologies and concepts in partnership with academia and industry, for transition to the FAA and the aviation industry to meet evolving user needs.

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