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NASA Science Budget Request Fact Sheet

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
June 2, 2021
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Europa Clipper in orbit around Europa. (Credit: NASA)

FY 2022 Budget Request
($ Millions)

NASA’s Science budget, managed by the Science Mission Directorate, includes five major science areas as well as the James Webb Space Telescope which is funded separately from Astrophysics. These areas include:

  • Earth Science to enhance understanding of Earth systems and to observe the effects of climate change. The Budget invests heavily in climate and applications research, begins formulation of the first four Designated Observable missions, and initiates the Earth System Explorers program (consistent with Decadal Survey recommendations). The Budget also supports the ongoing development of the Earth System Observatory including PACE, CLARREO Pathfinder, NISAR, SWOT, and Landsat 9.
  • Planetary Science to explore the planetary bodies of our solar system. The Budget funds the Lunar Discovery and Exploration program that supports public-private partnerships and innovative approaches to achieving human and science exploration goals. The Budget maintains support for the Planetary Defense program for near-Earth object detection and mitigation, including the Near-Earth Objects Surveyor mission. It also contains funding to explore new destinations in the solar system, such as the Europa Clipper and Dragonfly missions, and a robust competitive Discovery program, including Psyche and Lucy. The Budget supports a Mars Sample Return mission with key international partnerships, which will launch as early as FY 2026 and return samples to Earth. The Budget also supports the VIPER mission, which will explore the south pole of the Moon after its commercial lunar delivery in 2023.
  • Astrophysics to study the universe and search for Earth-like planets. The Budget supports development of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope planned for launch in 2026 and continues operations of the Hubble Space Telescope. The Budget includes funding for a competitive Explorers program, including recent selections, such as IXPE and SPHEREx, as well as new selections every two to three years. The Budget also supports initiation of a probe-class mission in FY 2022 pending Decadal Survey recommendations. The Budget supports ending the SOFIA mission. SOFIA’s annual operations budget is the second-most expensive operating mission in the Astrophysics Division, yet the science productivity of the mission is not on par with other large science missions.
  • The James Webb Space Telescope will explore all phases of our cosmic history – from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe, and everything in between. Webb will seek the first stars that formed in the early universe, observe the formation of galaxies and protoplanetary systems, and explore potentially habitable exoplanets. The Budget supports a launch in October 2021.
  • Heliophysics to study the Sun and its influence throughout the solar system. The Budget supports the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe, new missions of opportunity within the Solar Terrestrial Probes program, and new Explorer mission selections (e.g., PUNCH, AWE, and TRACERS). The Budget includes funding for the Geospace Dynamics Constellation mission, the DRIVE initiative, and interagency efforts to improve space weather predictive capabilities (all priorities in the Decadal Survey).
  • Biological and Physical Sciences to better understand how biological and physical systems work by observing them in ways not possible on Earth. The Budget supports space biology investigations, which seek to understand how living organisms respond to and evolve in the spaceflight environment, and physical science investigations to examine the fundamental laws of the universe from the unique vantage point of space.

In effectively managing this portfolio, the Science Mission Directorate:

  • Focuses on three interdisciplinary objectives:
    • Discovering the secrets of the universe;
    • Searching for life in the Solar System and beyond; and
    • Protecting and improving life on Earth.
  • Supports approximately 100 space missions:
    • Approximately 45 missions preparing for launch and approximately 55 operating missions
    • In addition, ongoing flights of sounding rockets, aircraft, and high-altitude balloons and associated science payloads
  • Invests in world-class scientific research conducted by more than 10,000 U.S. scientists:
    • More than 3,000 openly competed research awards with universities, industry, and Government labs
    • World-leading research, frequently highlighted on the covers of Science, Nature, and major newspapers
  • Executes innovative partnerships to enhance science and innovation, for example by:
    • Purchasing Earth Science observation data from commercial SmallSat constellations to augment or complement observations acquired by NASA;
    • Leveraging commercial partnerships to deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon;
    • Leveraging data and expertise through collaborations with other Federal agencies, such as USGS and NOAA;
    • Collaborating with nations across the globe on NASA missions and science; and
    • Enabling science learners across the U.S. through partnerships with community-based organizations.
  • Enables the use of NASA science data to inform decision-makers in support of vital national needs, including disaster response, space weather prediction, and planetary defense
  • Develops innovative technologies to enable advances in future missions and observational capabilities, for example:
    • Optics and detectors to characterize habitable planets around other stars;
    • Sensors to look for signs of past or present life on Mars and other planetary bodies; and
    • Instruments to advance our understanding of Earth’s natural systems.

FY 2020 reflects funding amounts specified in Public Law 116-93, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, as adjusted in NASA’s FY 2021 Initial Operating Plan, except Exploration Ground System Development and Exploration CoF. Table does not reflect emergency supplemental funding provided for NASA and included in the Safety, Security, and Mission Services account, as specified in Public Law 116-136, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, totaling $60.0 million. FY 2021 reflects funding amounts specified in Public Law 116-260, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, as adjusted by NASA’s FY 2021 Initial Operating Plan.

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