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MIT Technology Review

NASA’s proposed budget will fund a lunar space station but kill a major rocket upgrade

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The proposed 2020 budget slashes $500 million from NASA’s spending but demonstrates an increased focus on the moon.

The winners: The Lunar Gateway project came out on top. This is a concept for a space station that would orbit the moon and would serve as a jumping-off point for deep space exploration. The budget requests $821 million for it, nearly twice as much as was allocated in 2019. The much-delayed James Webb Space Telescope also got a bump in funding.

The big cuts: There were a lot more losers in this budget, though. Overall, the budget requests approximately 2% less for NASA, which is nearly a $500 million decrease. That means there were a lot of cuts across of the board. The main ones:

  • The Space Launch System (SLS), NASA’s next big rocket, which has been delayed a number of times, lost out. THe budget asked for only $1.78 billion for SLS, which is about $375 million less than was allocated last year. Specifically, the time line for creating Block 1B rocket upgrade was pushed back.
  • One of the largest program cuts is to the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) mission, which was given $312 million last year. If the budget is approved, this massive infrared astronomy mission, planned to launch in the 2020s, would be canceled.

Want to go into some more detail? The Planetary Society did a great job breaking down the funding changes from last year.

What it means: The funding request demonstrates the administration’s interest in the moon as a short-term target. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said today that this budget would keep the organization on track to get humans on the moon by 2028. Next up: getting the budget approved.

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