NASA is asking for a $25.2 billion budget, 12% up from last year. Here’s why.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, commonly known as NASA, has requested Congress for a $25.2 billion budget for 2021, 12% higher than last year’s budget. The main reason behind NASA’s higher ask is obvious – Artemis. The cost of development required to meet the Trump Administration’s “return to the moon by 2024” deadline is not cheap.

Almost 50% of the requested budget ($12.37 billion) will be dedicated to the Artemis program, and private space companies like Boeing and Blue Origin stand to benefit. The Space Launch System rocket is being developed by Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, for which funding is required. The lunar lander will also be outsourced to private companies, and companies like Blue Origin have already begun working on their pitch to develop the lander.

Artemis NASA budget prominent expenditure

  • $1.4 billion – Orion Spacecraft
  • $2.26 billion – Space Launch System
  • $3.37 billion – Crewed lunar lander contract
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Last year, Congress had cut down some of NASA’s budget requests, but that is not expected to happen this year. With the Trump administration and Congress pressurizing the space agency to deliver on the Artemis program, it seems unlikely that Congress will cut down on the budget ask – especially on Artemis.

The biggest ask from NASA is the $3.4 billion ask for the development of the crewed lunar lander. NASA even announced that it will be awarding the first contracts to competing private companies for the development of the lander in late March or early April. Right now, Blue Origin is most likely to bag a contract for developing a crewed lunar lander. They have already displayed a model of their concept of a lunar lander, the Blue Moon.

Concept of Blue Moon on the lunar surface. | Image: Blue Origin

Other parts of NASA’s budget will go towards developing the “Lunar Gateway,” which will act sort of like a mini space station in a halo orbit around the moon. The gateway will act as a hub between the Orion spacecraft and the lunar lander.

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Source: CNBC

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