In case you’ve haven’t heard, N.A.S.A (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) will be receiving a much larger budget in the upcoming fiscal year. For the year 2015, N.A.S.A.’s budget was around $18.01 billion, while for 2016 it’s going to be around $19.3 billion, which is $1.27 billion more than the budget President Obama initially proposed.
So the question here quickly becomes: what’s the reason for the increased funds? Is there going to be a new wave of space exploration? And if so, is the colonization of other planets being explored?
Well, according to Universe Today, pretty much all of N.A.S.A.’s programs will benefit from the extra money. However, there is one big winner that I would like to cover: the ‘Journey to Mars’ initiative. Note, this initiative is not a sole program. Rather it is a combination of several programs, such as the Space Launch System (SLS), and the Orion crew capsule.
The SLS is getting $2 billion of the new budget. This is the rocket platform that will eventually send people to planets like Mars for colonization. When completed it is expected to be the biggest rocket ever built. Manned missions using this rocket are currently slated for some time in the 2030’s, with unmanned tests starting in late 2018.
The other big winner, the Orion Space Capsule, will also receive $1.27 billion of the new budget. When the SLS launches, it will have this capsule situated on top, much like the Apollo missions. The new capsule is designed for a four man crew, and can carry out multiple mission types. When launched there will be two main modules: a command module, and a service module. These two parts are being built separately, but will be used in unison for missions, also much like the Apollo Program.
Overall, however, the real beneficiary of the increased NASA budget is the world, at least in the long term. It seems that over the past decade, the one thing that seems to unite different countries and cultures is scientific research and the practical projects associated with space exploration. Even now with the political tension between the U.S. and Russia extremely worrying, we still see cooperation in transporting personnel and supplies to and from the International Space Station. In this one area, there is no lack of support and interest from most developed nations, with space projects even able to inspire cooperation between historical enemies.
I for one can’t wait to see how these programs develop. While many of us will likely be too old to participate once they boldly start sending people off to colonize the final frontier, I do think, however, that colonizing other worlds will help much of the world’s nations to realize that cooperation is the only viable long term international relationship worth developing.