In all, President Donald Trump’s NASA budget cuts won’t gut the space agency’s funding too much. But they highlight the 45th president of the United States’ desire to focus on space travel, while drawing criticism from lawmakers regarding the significant garnishing of funds, or outright elimination, of funding for climate change initiatives.
A look at the president’s new budget proposal released earlier in the week shows that NASA’s funding has only been reduced by less than one percent, with Trump reducing the space agency’s budget from $19.3 billion to $19.1 billion. According to the Los Angeles Times, this suggests that the agency is in better shape budget-wise than the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other government organizations that received generous cuts for the year 2018.
In a prepared statement reacting to the 2018 budget plans released by Donald Trump, NASA acting administrator Robert Lightfoot released a prepared statement acknowledging that the agency’s budget remains similar to what it has been in recent years and ample enough to ensure it achieves its most important goals.
“This is in line with our funding in recent years, and will enable us to effectively execute our core mission for the nation, even during these times of fiscal constraint.”
But if one were to look at NASA’s budget allocation in terms of its individual ingredients, it would appear that climate change has gotten the short end of the stick, according to The Verge. Budget cuts to the space agency’s Earth science program have come as no surprise, and while the cuts “aren’t so drastic,” two important missions stand to be terminated, namely the PACE spacecraft, which will be launched in order to perform health checks on Earth’s oceans, and the CLARREO Pathfinder, which has been mooted as a way to provide more accurate information on climate and weather.
There’s also been Donald Trump’s plan to turn off NASA’s “Earth-viewing instruments” on the in-orbit DSCOVR satellite. The Verge described this as a “petty change” toward a satellite that was first proposed by then-Vice President Al Gore in the late 1990s and launched in 2015 in order to observe our planet and analyze information on solar winds.
In a statement, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) told the Los Angeles Times that he is concerned about the “continuing assault on climate science” and the cancellation of a planned mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa’s surface, but upbeat regarding the fact NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab will still be funded for its Mars 2020 and Europa Clipper missions.
“In terms of the planetary missions that JPL works on, Mars 2020 looks good, the Europa Clipper looks good. But I am concerned about the cancellation of the Europa landing mission, and I intend to work with (Texas Republican Congressman) John Culberson to make sure that we restore that.”
The White House’s 2018 budget plan doesn’t just call for significantly reduced spending on climate change-related projects, but also the removal of NASA’s education program. This is the space agency’s arm in charge of whetting interest in space travel, science, and engineering among students as well as the “much more fun and indirect educational outreach initiatives,” wrote The Verge.
All in all, Donald Trump’s budget plan for NASA will save the agency $115 million by eliminating its Office of Education, with the White House stating that this arm was “performing functions that are duplicative of other parts of the agency.”
NASA’s space travel-centric budget plan has been criticized by many, including former administrator Charles Bolden, who held his post at NASA under Barack Obama’s administration.
“I’m not at all surprised, but I’m very disappointed that the administration chose to go through with the threat. And it’s not just the environment — it’s their attack on education, it’s their attack on research and development, it’s their attack on everything that has allowed us to maintain our leadership in the world.”
For the meantime, Donald Trump’s budget for NASA and other agencies is still far from being finalized, the L.A. Times wrote. As California congressman Schiff noted, the government is “still working on the 2017 budget,” so it may take months more of budget negotiations before the Trump administration’s plans for the 2018 fiscal year are finalized.
[Featured Image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]