NASA to receive $23.271 billion in 2021 omnibus spending bill

The bill was released just a day after congressional leaders reached an agreement on a companion coronavirus relief package. A compromise between House and Senate bills, the omnibus spending bill had been completed days earlier but was delayed until the relief package was agreed upon.

NASA to receive $23.271 billion in 2021 omnibus spending bill
NASA to receive $23.271 billion in 2021 omnibus spending bill

NASA to receive $23.271 billion in 2021 omnibus spending bill

The U.S. Congress will provide funding of nearly $23.3 billion to NASA in the final fiscal year 2021 under the omnibus spending bill, released on December 21. While this will restore several science programs, it still falls far short of the funding required by NASA for a lunar lander program, reported SpaceNews.

The bill was released just a day after congressional leaders reached an agreement on a companion coronavirus relief package. A compromise between House and Senate bills, the omnibus spending bill had been completed days earlier but was delayed until the relief package was agreed upon.

The bill provides $23.271 billion for NASA in the fiscal year 2021, a $642 million increase from 2020. However, it still falls short by around $2 billion, when compared to the agency’s request of $25.246 billion. A House spending bill passed in July had kept NASA funded at 2020 levels, while a Senate bill introduced in November had offered $23.495 billion.

The bill will fund multiple NASA science missions earlier scheduled for cancellation, including the PACE and CLARREO Pathfinder Earth science missions, the Roman Space Telescope, and the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. It also funds NASA’s education programs.

Key elements of NASA’s exploration programs, including the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft, and Exploration Ground Systems all received funding at or above the administration’s request. However, the bill provides $850 million for the Human Landing System (HLS) program, almost one-quarter of the administration’s request of $3.3 billion. The Senate bill offered $1 billion for HLS while the House version had about $600 million.

NASA officials, including Administrator Jim Bridenstine, previously warned that they needed full funding of HLS in order to keep a human return to the moon on schedule for 2024. “The budget request gave us what we needed to achieve a 2024 moon landing, and as of right now, this agency is meeting all of its milestones,” Bridenstine said at a Dec. 9 meeting of the National Space Council. “Ultimately, if we don’t get the $3.3 billion, it gets more and more difficult.”