NASA is poised to see an increased budget for 2015, after the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan spending bill late Thursday. Under the so-called "Cromnibus" bill, the federal space agency's overall budget will rise by 2 percent to $18 billion next year — an increase of $364 million from current levels, and $500 million more than NASA requested in March. The $1.1 trillion spending bill, passed just hours before a midnight deadline to avert a government shutdown, now moves on to the Senate, which is expected to vote this weekend.
The budget for NASA's science mission will rise by 2 percent to $5.24 billion next year, with the $1.44 billion planetary sciences division receiving $160 million more than what President Barack Obama requested earlier this year. The bill calls for the division to spend "no less than $100 million" on a mission to the icy Jupiter moon of Europa, which had been a point of contention between the White House and Congress. The increase notably comes without cuts to other space science divisions, which scientists see as an encouraging sign.
"No one paid the price for restoration of the cuts to planetary science. That’s a big deal."
"They added nearly $300 million to the entire science mission directorate," Casey Dreier, advocacy director for the Planetary Society, tells the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). "No one paid the price for restoration of the cuts to planetary science. That’s a big deal."
The bill also allocates $2.9 billion to support NASA's human spaceflight endeavors, including the Orion spacecraft, which completed its first test launch earlier this month. The agency's astrophysics division receives $1.33 billion in funding under the bill, $70 million more than the White House requested. The money will be used to maintain the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a modified Boeing 747 with an infrared telescope.