S1 Ep16: A New Space Race?

by | May 20, 2023, 10:58 PM | Podcast

Space science isn’t where the money is… at least not yet. Astronomy and planetary science in the U.S. are funded by NASA, the National Science Foundation, and a variety of smaller foundations and extremely wealthy individuals.

And this means that sometimes science can only advance at the speed Congress is willing to budget. This past week, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson addressed the congressional NASA authorizing committee. During this event, Senator Maria Cantwell called for the passage of a multi-year budget authorization.

NASA last had a multi-year authorization from 2011-2013, when Nelson was a senator on the authorization committee. Now that he is on the other side of the desk, he is requesting a five-year authorization. These bills don’t actually provide the funding – that requires appropriations committees – but the authorization does guide what should be funded and prioritized.

As was pointed out by multiple people during this meeting: The U.S. is in a new space race with China, and our ability to remain competitive in low-earth orbit is now an economic issue, with communications and imaging satellites powering multiple sectors. If a multi-year authorization is passed, there is hope folks will be able to dream, focus on research, and maybe, just maybe, spend less time asking for money.

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