On Wednesday, Congressman Adam Schiff released the following statement after the Commerce, Justice and Science FY 2016 Appropriations bill was marked up in the full committee, which now heads to the House Floor in the coming months:
“Some rare good news on federal funding for an important priority today, when the House Appropriations Committee agreed to fund Planetary Science and NASA at levels far above what the President requested. By providing full funding – and in many cases, strong increases – for NASA’s Planetary Science missions, Congress has stated unequivocally to the White House that the scientists got it right in the decadal survey, and that we should be funding missions to Mars and Europa.
“I’m also hopeful that as the appropriations process proceeds, we will be able to get NASA’s Earth Science budget up to where it should be as well. We must also ensure that spacecraft still producing good science is not shut down prematurely, and that other programs have the long-term funding necessary to plan for future missions. I want to thank Chairman Culberson and Ranking Member Fattah for working with the community and me, and I look forward to continuing to support these critical missions well into the future.”
In this year’s Commerce, Justice and Science FY 2016 Appropriations bill, the Appropriations Committee significantly increased NASA’s overall funding numbers, in addition to upping funding for their Planetary Science programs. Specifically, NASA is funded at $18.5 billion ($519 million above FY15 levels), with Planetary Science receiving $1.557 billion ($120 million above FY15). This is good news for the program, which will be provided $448 million for exploration of Mars – with $250 million going towards the Mars 2020 mission, $13.7 million for continued operations of the Opportunity Rover, and $19 million for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Additionally, the bill provides $140 million for a mission to Jupiter’s moon of Europa, with bill language directing NASA to conduct a mission with “an orbiter and studies of both a surface element as well as sample analysis of plumes emanating from the surface.” It also directs NASA to use the SLS as a launch vehicle for Europa and the mission should launch no later than 2022 and include in the FY17 budget “a five-year funding profile necessary to achieve those goals.”
Last year, Congress passed an Appropriations bill that provided NASA with $18.01 billion, $549 million above the President’s request for this year and $364 million above last year. Planetary science was funded at a total of $1.437 billion, an increase of $157 million or 12%, which supported the continued funding of the Opportunity rover and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, as well as the Mars 2020 mission. It also specifically delineated $118 million for a flagship mission to Europa in the future, an increase of $102 million or 686% over the previous year’s funding level – through this appropriation, Congress specifically directed NASA to begin planning a mission to Jupiter’s moon in the future.