The generosity of the White House has enabled NASA to do great things in 2023 and beyond, according to the space agency’s deputy chief.
“The Budget request of $26 billion for fiscal year 2023 is 8% higher than federal spending levels enacted for fiscal year 2022, affirming the importance of civil space to the Biden-Harris administration and to the strategic future of the United States,” said the administrator. NASA Deputy Pam Melroy last week at the 37th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.
“This represents the largest overall request in current dollars for NASA and the largest request for science funding in the agency’s history,” she added.
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Melroy pointed to the budget’s potential positive impact on NASA Artemis program, the agency’s plan to send astronauts back to the moon as a stepping stone to Mars. (Reminder: the budget request is only a request at this time; it still needs to be approved by Congress.)
She called the recent deployment of the Artemis 1 lunar mission at its launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida “very moving and very historic”. She also acknowledged the expansion of lunar science programs to prepare for further human exploration of the moon, including the Rover VIPER which will map the location of water ice near the moon’s south pole.
“We never forget that we stand on the shoulders of giants, the men who have landed on the moon and the women who did the math,” joked Melroy, noting that the accomplishments of the Apollo generation inspired its own foray into the space program. (Melroy, a retired Air Force colonel, served as a NASA astronaut and was one of two female space shuttle commanders.)
Melroy then considered space science missions, including the next Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescopewhich is scheduled to be launched before the end of the decade, as well as the Mars Sample Return mission campaign that will bring back to Earth the material collected by the Perseverance vagabond. The 2023 budget will also contribute to the extension of the operations of the International Space Station until 2030, as previously hired by the Biden administration.
Melroy also reiterated NASA’s commitment to Earth science, especially as it relates to climate change; this year will see the launch of the agency Earth System Observatory constellation of satellites.
“We will continue to integrate our climate efforts across the agency for maximum synergy, and we will launch the Earth Information Center, an effort to bring together our space-based climate data, as well as data from our inter-agency and international partners. in one place,” she said.
“It will help make it more accessible to scientists, yes, but we really intend to make it more accessible to decision-makers, and also to all citizens, especially in our communities who are most affected by climate change“, added Melroy.
In this sense, Melroy announced the priority given by NASA to aeronautical innovation in green aerospace. For example, the agency’s all-electric X-57 aircraft is set to begin flight testing this year, along with other X-planes foreseen.
“Budget 2023 allows us to begin planning for the next X-plane through the Sustainable Flight National Partnership, which will demonstrate flight efficiency capabilities that can transition directly into narrow-body civil aviation,” Melroy said. “We are also continuing with enthusiasm in the area of the X aircraft with the X-59 later this year, which will demonstrate how we can mitigate sonic booms and hopefully lead to persistent supersonic commercial flight.”
Finally, Melroy praised NASA’s commercial partners, from commercial crew to commercial cargo to commercial science. The Biden administration’s budget request includes $220 million for commercial destinations in low Earth orbit, with which NASA hopes to promote a new space economy.
“I believe history will look back and say we’re in the golden age of commercial space, and it’s quite exciting to live in it,” she said.
You can watch a recording of Melroy’s remarks on April 5 on NASA’s YouTube channel.