If Congress passes the omnibus spending bill that it’s now considering, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will enjoy a larger budget in 2016 than it has had in at least half a decade.
NASA will be able to spend $19.3 billion next year, according to the budget, an increase of more than $1.3 billion over 2015 funding levels. That’s $700 million more than the funding requested by the White House.
“Everyone who supports space should be very pleased with this, if it passes as is,” said Casey Dreier, the director of advocacy at the Planetary Society. “This is a great budget.”
NASA did not return a request for comment.
2016 will be a busy year for the U.S. space agency. If all goes well, the geological mission InSight will land on the surface of Mars, the robotic orbiter Juno will reach Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx will launch from Earth. OSIRIS aims to eventually touch down on the surface of the asteroid Bennu, spend almost two years there, then send a capsule home to this planet with asteroid samples.
All three of these missions are planetary-science missions, housed in the only NASA division which visits worlds beyond our own. The New Horizons probe that visited Pluto this year was also a planetary-science mission. Dreier noted that the 2016 budget restores historically normal levels of funding to NASA planetary science, which had seen its budget sliced by 25 percent in the early part of this decade.