Spaceflight Insider

Trump Administration proposes 2018 NASA budget

NASA's Space Launch System

Artist rendering of NASA’s Space Launch System. Image Credit: NASA

The recent release of the Trump administration’s 2018 budget blueprint reveals that many of the items he said he would cut for NASA are actually being cut in favor of continuing other NASA priorities. The overall cut to the NASA budget is less than 1 percent of the 2017 budget which is good news for the space agency. The total NASA budget as proposed is $19.1 billion.

Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement: “While more detailed budget information will be released in May, we have received a top line budget number for the agency as part of an overall government budget rollout of more than $19 billion. 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.”

Overall, the budget proposal is both good news and bad news for NASA. The bad news is that among the items on the cut list is NASA’s Office of Education, which is cut completely from the proposed budget. NASA will now focus its education and outreach solely through Science Mission Directorate.

Asteroid Redirect Mission cut

The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which was proposed under President Obama, is also cut completely from the budget. Many will find this move favorable as it appears that NASA may be redirected to go back to the Moon instead since there isn’t any mention of a manned mission to Mars in the budget either.

The question will be how serious the Administration is about returning to the surface of the Moon since any directive for work to begin on a lunar lander doesn’t exist in the current budget. In his statement, Robert Lightfoot said: “The budget also bolsters our ongoing work to send humans deeper into space and the technologies that will require.”

NASA / Boeing advanced supersonic aircraft concept

This rendering shows The Boeing Company’s future supersonic advanced concept featuring two engines above the fuselage. (Click to enlarge) Image Credit: NASA/Boeing

Earth Sciences cut

NASA’s Earth Sciences is seeing a $102 million cut resulting in a $1.8 billion budget for the department. While that’s still a substantial budget, it will result in the cancellation of three Earth observation missions: PACE, OCO-3, DSCOVR. Also scrapped in the proposed budget is the CLARREO Pathfinder mission – designed to produce highly accurate climate records to gain a better understanding of changes in our climate.

It’s not all bad news, though, aeronautics is allocated with $624 million to work on the development of commercial supersonic flights over land.

Planetary Science increased

The Planetary Science program will continue to work on the Europa Clipper – a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa that will study the Jovian moon using high-resolution photography and other instruments to investigate composition and structure of its surface. In addition, work will continue on Mars 2020 – the next lander to be sent to the surface of Mars which will continue to study the past climatology on Mars and, more importantly, will look for evidence of past microbial life.

In all, the budget delegates $1.9 billion for planetary exploration; however, conspicuously absent is funding for a Europa lander, a mission that when announced generated great support among the scientific community.

Space Launch System, Orion funded well

The Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion spacecraft are funded well again with $3.7 billion allocated to those projects.

The budget also directs NASA to continue to work with its commercial providers to lower costs and improve the services they provide.

Currently, NASA will continue to follow the 2017 Continuing Resolution that is funding it until April 28. While the President proposes a budget, Congress actually sets the budget, so the proposed budget for NASA and other agencies could change substantially from what the Administration has proposed.



Lloyd Campbell’s first interest in space began when he was a very young boy in the 1960s with NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. That passion continued in the early 1970s with our continued exploration of our Moon, and was renewed by the Shuttle Program. Having attended the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final two missions, STS-131, and STS-133, he began to do more social networking on space and that developed into writing more in-depth articles. Since then he’s attended the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the agency’s new crew-rated Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test 1, and multiple other uncrewed launches. In addition to writing, Lloyd has also been doing more photography of launches and aviation. He enjoys all aspects of space exploration, both human, and robotic, but his primary passions lie with human exploration and the vehicles, rockets, and other technologies that allow humanity to explore space.

Reader Comments

With the Asteroid redirect mission canceled and no mention of Mars, I cannot help but wonder what the well (over) funded SLS / Orion capability is to be used for.

Setting up a moon base with manufacturing capability and water mining makes some sense. However, the SLS is way too expensive to be sustainable at such an effort.

What they ought to do is support Blue Origin and SpaceX attempts at heavy lifter reusable rockets; develop a moon lander and habitat; construct a shuttle from the Earth to the moon with moon refueling capability.

Once manufacturing is in place on the moon, a shuttle to Mars can be constructed that fuels at the moon and refuels at Mars.

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