In 2024, NASA could spend more or less 27 billion dollars! An increased budget compared to the current year which should strengthen the technological leadership of the United States, the world’s leading space power which has a policy of having a continuous presence in space. Let’s discover the American priorities in the fields of exploration, Earth observation, science and space weather.
The lengthy fiscal year 2024 budget process has begun in the United States. As a reminder, the American fiscal year covers a period extending from 1er October of year N-1 to September 30 of year N. After the NASA request which detailed its needs, the White House submitted to Congress its budget for the year 2024. This budget of approximately 27 billion dollars is only a proposal. It is now up to the Senate and the House to find a consensus on a budget text (in theory before September 30), which will then be submitted for final approval by the Executive.
Unsurprisingly, in the field of exploration, this budget is built around the success of Artemis I, which paves the way for manned lunar flights. It consolidates all the current programs and the general architecture of the Artemis program (lunar landers, outposts, Gateway, space suits, etc.) whose main objectives are: to guarantee a long-term presence on the Moon and the first manned expeditions bound for Mars for the United States and its partners. Eight billion dollars are planned.
This budget takes into account the end of the era of the International Space Station and the opening of a new period of acceleration of the privatization of low orbit. As part of its program Commercial LEO Destination (CLD), which aims to support the development of private space stations in low orbit, NASA would become a mere customer to meet its research and technology needs.
Public-private partnerships extended to space stations
Initiated at the start of the 2010s by Barack Obama and accentuated by Donald Trump, the privatization of part of space activities in low orbit will continue. After the resupply of cargo, the transport of goods to the ISS and the rotation of crews on board the orbital complex, NASA wants to support and accelerate the commercialization of low orbit and the development of private space stations for which it would become a mere customer to meet its research and technology needs.
This program, Commercial LEO Destination, must allow a gradual transition between the ISS and its future private stations so as to guarantee an uninterrupted American presence in low orbit. Finally, as long as the ISS will be in operation, until the end of the current decade, NASA wishes to open it up more to tourist and commercial missions, to more users and companies who are not necessarily from space sector. These are 4.5 billion that could be allocated, including 180 million to begin the development of a space tug to deorbit the ISS.
An imposing budget for Earth observation
In the field of Earth observation, this budget provides more than 3.3 billion investments in programs to observe, understand and protect the Earth. Some 2.5 billion is desired in the field of earth sciences by investing in the next generation of Landsat satellites, in four new Earth system observation missions and by making earth science data available and accessible to all one each. No less than $570 million is planned to reduce the impact of aviation on the climate and nearly $300 million for planetary defense, including $210 million for the planetary defense mission which will detect, track and characterize risks impact of asteroids and comets (NEO Surveyor, 2028) and solving the growing problem of orbital debris. Finally, 230 million would be intended for missions deemed to be of high priority such as Pace (phytoplankton, aerosols, clouds), the observatory of absolute radiance and refractivity of the climate Clarreo-Pathfinder and Nisar to study changes affecting ecosystems , the earth’s crust and the cryosphere (in partnership with India).
In robotic exploration, NASA is planning $49 million to continue the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission to bring the first samples of Martian material back to Earth for detailed study, including the samples already collected and cached by the Perseverance rover. The costs of this mission could increase beyond what NASA deems reasonable with the risk of either reduced funding for other scientific activities or a reduction in the scope of this mission.
Some 692 million are planned for the development of missions considered to be priorities, in particular Europa Clipper, a probe bound for Jupiter’s moon Europe, the Viper lunar rover intended to study volatile matter at the South Pole of the Moon and the Dragonfly drone who will explore Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, from the air.
The ExoMars rover should use NASA’s crane to land on Mars
NASA plans to continue and strengthen its international partnerships in several European Space Agency missions (EnVision, Juice, and Exomars) and the Jaxa (Japan) MMX mission to return samples from Mars’ moon Phobos. Regarding the ExoMars rover, NASA should provide the Skycrane landing system, which landed the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers, replacing the Russian “Kazachok” landing platform, landed from the program due to the war in Ukraine.
Among the programs to receive funding is the Nancy Grace Roman Space Observatory, scheduled to launch in 2027. This mission aims to unlock the secrets of dark energy and dark matter, search for and image exoplanets, and to explore many themes of infrared astrophysics. About 140 million are allocated for the further development of the Imap probe (Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe), slated for launch in 2025, to help researchers better understand the limits of the heliosphere. Finally, $27 million to fund space weather studies and research to enable the United States to better protect its space infrastructure and astronauts from space weather.