19 June 2008
A quick NASA budget update: the House has approved a bill that authorizes a NASA budget of $20.2 billion for the next fiscal year, which is a significant increase over the White House’s proposed budget of $17.8 billion. The bill is likely to make it through the Senate intact as well.
An important note: an authorization bill is not the same as actually giving out money. The bill “authorizes” a NASA budget of $20.2 billion, but the current appropriations bill (the real deal) still only says $17.8 billion. As Wired puts it: “It’s a bit like having one group of people who approve you for a loan and another group of people who decide how much to write the actual check for.”
The most exciting part of this bill is the margin it passed by: 409-15! The lawmakers behind the bill are hoping to use it to send the message to the next administration that Congress supports NASA and human space exploration. It remains to be seen whether or not (1) NASA actually gets the expanded budget, and (2) how the Mars program funding will be impacted by this.